Students gain experience with Coffee Corner

By Kayla Baugh Published September 17, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

From left, Addie Gillmore, 11, Shaylah Swaim, 12, and Anslee Brewer, 11, stand with their teacher, Lisa Headley, and fellow student Tila Reyes, as they prepare for the upcoming Yum Yum Cooking Club at Central Magnet Elementary School in Batesville. Headley said funds raised by the school’s new Coffee Corner will go toward supplies for the school’s nine-week cooking club, which will likely start in January.

Baristas slinging coffee, lattes, caramel and whipped cream is something one might see on a typical morning coffee run.

The students at Central Magnet Elementary School in Batesville are anything but typical, though — they’ve brewed up their very own Coffee Corner.

Lisa Headley, reading interventionist at the school, came up with the business idea before school started last month.

Students use a Keurig coffee maker to serve $1 drinks to staff and community members from 7:30-8 a.m. each school day, Headley said.

“The Keurig uses pods, so it is easy and safe,” she said. “I’m always right there with the students. They are never left unsupervised.”

Students add whipped cream, milk, caramel drizzle, creamer or ice to create certain drinks, she said.

Headley said drinks offered include The Iced Coffee, The Flat White, The Americano, The Famous Hot Chocolate, The Hawaiian, The Caramel Drizzle, The French Vanilla and The Macchiato Caramel, among other options.

Every few weeks, Headley said, she selects different students to help out with the Coffee Corner and learn how the business operates.

“Right now, there are three students working in the Coffee Corner,” she said. “They are very bright, energetic girls. These girls have worked very hard learning everything they need to know from the moment [the Coffee Corner] opened. Their smiles and friendly attitude will make anyone stop for a cup of coffee, even on a hot day.”

Funds raised by the Coffee Corner will go back into the community and be used for supplies for the school’s nine-week Yum Yum Cooking Club, which will start around January, she said.

Headley said she started the Yum Yum Cooking Club last year for students in fourth through sixth grades.

The club operated with a limited budget and help from parents, but Headley said she wanted to include her students in fundraising for the club.

“So I came up with the idea of creating a business for the students. I talked to my principal, Mr. [Byron] Difani. He is always very supportive, and he said, ‘Go for it.’ So I wrote a grant through Donors Choose and got all the supplies paid for to open the business,” she said.

Headley said she received products worth $665 from Donors Choose.

Students have already raised money to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, she said, and they plan to donate to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock in the near future.

“Our theme at Central Magnet this year is ‘Difference Maker,’” Headley said. “I want the students to show others that being kind and generous makes a difference in the world, and maybe it will spread like it’s contagious, and everyone catches it from the heart.”

Students who volunteer at the Coffee Corner learn about communication, socialization and making a difference with hands-on experience, she said.

“I had a parent come up to me and say that this was a great idea, and she overheard one of the students asking one of the teachers if she wanted her ‘regular,’” Headley said. “That got me right there.”

Headley said so many students were interested in the Yum Yum Cooking Club this year that she had to choose members based on applications, which she plans to do again next year.

“Last year, the Yum Yum Cooking Club hosted a Staff Appreciation Pancake Breakfast,” she said. “The club also made valentine popcorn surprise sacks, drew names of students and staff, and had a winner every 30 minutes on Valentine’s Day. They traveled to the college to tour the Culinary Arts School in Melbourne. The club was very active and made different dishes each week that were costly.”

Difani said it is important for students to learn both inside and outside of the classroom.

“I remember when I was in school, I took a home-economics class,” he said. “Today, cooking is going out to eat at a fast-food restaurant. I want the next generation to know how to cook and prepare food.”

Difani said that although he isn’t a traditional coffee drinker, he enjoys drinking iced coffee and hot chocolate provided by the Coffee Corner.

“By working with customers, the students are learning to be professional and treat others well,” he said.

The principal said students at the school are excited about the Coffee Corner and the Yum Yum Cooking Club, and they’re eager to learn to cook and help others.

“They are happy being a part of something so meaningful,” Difani said.

“The students who are involved love it, and I’m hoping to find ways to involve the community. Hopefully, we will get to a point where we can invite different businesses to come and have coffee, and maybe another snack that will be provided by the club,” he said.

“Our school is known for ‘Central Has Heart,’ and I truly believe that,” Headley said. “Students and staff are always trying to help one another, and with this year’s theme, ‘Difference Maker,’ we want to show the community that we have heart and that you can make a difference in what you do. It just might change someone’s life.”

Staff writer Kayla Baugh can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or

None Kayla Baugh can be reached at 501-244-4307 or