Coffee with a cause 

Students from the Medical Science Academy and functional academic students finish a successful coffee kiosk during brunch on Tuesday, March 5 at Valencia High School. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Students from the Medical Science Academy and functional academic students finish a successful coffee kiosk during brunch on Tuesday, March 5 at Valencia High School. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Share on facebook
Share
Share on twitter
Tweet
Share on email
Email

What more could high school students ask for if their favorite caffeinated pick-me-up is right around the corner? Literally.  

Valencia High School students who are a part of the school’s Medical Science Academy program are working closely with functional academic students on campus to immerse them through a coffee kiosk at brunch. 

The MSA, according to its website, is “a four-year career technical high school education (CTE) program, that incorporates medical knowledge into general education classes while preparing students for a future career in the medical field.” 

The kiosk, which is only weeks old, will be set up every Tuesday and Friday, an addition to the Tuesday-only kiosk that ran throughout February.  

Pierce Harlin, 22, left, Sophia Lemone, 17, center, and Quinn Evans, 16, right, collect order from Valencia students during brunch on Tuesday, March 5. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Pierce Harlin, 22, left, Sophia Lemone, 17, center, and Quinn Evans, 16, right, collect order from Valencia students during brunch on Tuesday, March 5. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Along with seniors Shivani Narang, 17, and Skyler Enriquez, 17, Lana Bohler-Price, 17, has been in the Medical Science Academy program at Valencia since her freshman year. 

“For our behavioral health program with the MSA, our senior year is more application based — getting real-world experience and doing something for our community,” Bohler-Price said. “We decided, during the second semester, to start focusing more on our special needs program, our FA students, getting them more integrated with campus.” 

There used to be an active kiosk in recent years at Valencia, but after its shutdown, the students are determined to run it again for the rest of the semester. 

“We decided to try and restart that up, getting them in a more involved position where they’re actually taking the orders, making the coffee and serving it out to customers,” Bohler-Price said. “I think it’s really awesome because a lot of people on this campus don’t really see them face to face and get to talk to them.” 

Allowing the FA students to have the full experience, of not only knowing students on campus, but also in building a sense of rapport and belonging, is a main incentive for the MSA students. 

“Mr. [Jerry Malkowski] was told that there was a need on campus for the special education students here. They wanted to have a sense of belonging and that they were contributing to the campus and able to bond with their peers,” Narang said. “We were like, ‘Hey, what we’ve learned in social work is you help fill that need.’ So that’s what we’ve done.” 

Enriquez discussed the camaraderie between him and the other six seniors in the behavioral health program.  

“We’ve all known each other since freshman year since that was our first year over COVID. In junior year, we learned about different mental health disorders and the history of mental health and institutions, and as seniors, we’re more focused on implementing that in our communities,” Enriquez said. “So this is one of the ways we’re doing that.” 

Malkowski, who teaches the mental behavioral health class in the MSA, as well as a credit recovery program called “Viking Promise” for students who are on track to graduate, and a human services class that prepares students to work in behavioral health fields, has helped spearhead this program. 

“Valencia High School has the largest special education population in the district — I think 22% of our students are falling into that category and the range is extreme,” Malkowski said. “We had heard about [the kiosk], somehow the idea got into my class, and we just said, ‘Let’s do it.’” 

Students in the back prepare the coffee and hot chocolate to fit the needs of their customers at Valencia on Tuesday, March 5. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Students in the back prepare the coffee and hot chocolate to fit the needs of their customers at Valencia on Tuesday, March 5. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

If Malkowski can describe the process in one word, it would simply be: rewarding.  

“Rewarding is a good word for it, but I can’t get over how fun it is. I wasn’t anticipating it. My six students are hard-working,” Malkowski said. “They show up. They’re motivated. They care about their future. They care about other people. They’re really supportive of each other. I mean, they’re in a mental behavioral health pathway.” 

According to Malkowski, the MSA program begins with students taking the same courses their freshman and sophomore years, then having three pathways to further pursue during their junior and senior years: sports medicine, emergency medical technician and behavioral health.  

Juniors who are also on the track, but are in a different class, came to support their fellow seniors on Tuesday in what Malkowski calls the first “streamlined” kiosk. 

“Juniors came to support today for the first time because there’s a lot that needs to be done in terms of setup, operating and then breakdown,” Malkowski said. “This is my fourth-period class, and my students have volunteered their brunch before class and will clean up.”  

Malkowski recognizes how fun it is to bring coffee to the Valencia community, and has taken true Viking pride in the students who are investing. 

“This is why it’s so much fun. It’s not like it’s staff that are coming over to support this program. It’s the actual students from the campus that have heard about it,” Malkowski said. “It’s just students on campus wanting to support this population.” 

FA students Cynthia Herrera, 21, Pierce Harlin, 22, Kathryn Kimes, 21, and Franco Sanchez, 21, who are associated with the adult transitional program on campus, reflected on how enjoyable the process has been: 

“I like this school. Being myself, loving my friends,” Herrera said. “I like coffee.” 

“It’s so cool,” Harlin said. “I took the orders and put cream into hot coffee.” 

“My favorite thing has been serving the customers drinks,” Kimes said. “I had to learn how to serve the customers.” 

Lana Bohler-Price, 17, center, hands coffees to Franco Sanchez, 21, center left, to call out to customers at Valencia on Tuesday, March 5. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Lana Bohler-Price, 17, center, hands coffees to Franco Sanchez, 21, center left, to call out to customers at Valencia on Tuesday, March 5. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“I learned how to say the customers’ right names and their great drinks, and talk to people,” Sanchez said. “We see new customers every week.” 

Tuesday’s profit resulted in $31, enough to cover the supplies and add onto a generous $1,000 donation since the kiosk’s come back. Yet, for the students, having the right tools to work closely with the FA students, and overall enhance the community, is priceless. 

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS