High School Opens Coffee Shop That Was Five Years in the Making

The idea of having a coffee shop at Bloomington High School South has been in the works for over five years, with the goal of creating a real-world learning environment that would empower students with opportunities to grow their experience across various business skills. In February 2019, Bloomington South counselors Joel McKay, John Livingston, and principal Mark Fletcher, along with librarians Joanna Hahn and Nancy Voskuil, visited Westfield and Carmel high schools to observe their coffee shop operations. However, they lacked the funding needed to put their ideas into action.

In 2020, the Regional Opportunity Initiatives awarded a $1.2 million Ready Schools implementation grant to the Monroe County Community School Corp. to expand its pre-K through grade 12 programs and support efforts to prepare students for job opportunities and future careers with employers throughout the region. Both Bloomington High School South and Bloomington High School North agreed to use the funds to construct a coffee shop at Bloomington South. Family and Consumer Sciences educator Jeana Kerr mentored students as they embarked on their journey of building a business from the ground up, discovering what works best for a high school coffee shop that would ultimately carry the name “Scholar Sips,” a play on the word “scholarships.”

The physical construction phase of the project started with obtaining a permit in August 2023. Spring Point Architects aided students in designing the shop, with students from Kerr’s class helping to choose various fabrics and materials. The menu was developed and tested, starting with a coffee-tasting session, with student input being a key part of the process. Quarrymen Coffee Roasting Company, the coffee supplier, was eager to introduce blends that the group would enjoy, and owners Wes and Debi Burton were enthusiastic about the project, providing a variety of coffees for tasting sessions and outfitting the coffee shop with necessary equipment.

Students are selected to work at Scholar Sips after completing five to six trimesters of Kerr’s hospitality and management class, which is also part of a graduation career pathway. Before working in the coffee shop, students must complete MCCSC internal controls and cash handling procedures, as well as receive hands-on training to prepare them for every aspect of running the shop.

Scholar Sips, a coffee shop at Bloomington High School South, has been a success for students since its opening in April 2024. Staff members Haley Henderson and Wyatt Caves have found the experience to be beneficial in their future endeavors, such as owning a restaurant. Students are responsible for making drinks, managing money, and cleaning the shop, which includes tasks like wiping down tables, sweeping the floor, doing dishes, and cleaning the coffee-making machines.

Senior Tiana Hicks enjoys the fun aspect of cleaning while also recognizing the cleaning crew’s efforts. Kerr emphasizes the importance of recognizing the cleaning crew’s efforts and allowing them to make mistakes, believing that this fosters a growth mindset essential for learning.

Since opening, Scholar Sips has greatly impacted the school community, with many students benefiting from its lower cost compared to Starbucks and the convenience of not having to leave school to get their coffee. Senior staff member Tyana Jones also appreciates the safe and comfortable environment for students to sit, talk, and do whatever they feel they need to do.

During price comparisons, students individually priced every component, then calculated the total cost of their product. After comparing their drink prices to other establishments, students realized they could charge more for their services. However, Kerr grounded the group, reminding them of their mission: to provide a welcoming environment for students to enjoy their drinks.

Next year, Scholar Sips plans to expand its operations by adjusting its hours to better suit students’ schedules. The soft opening at the end of this school year provided valuable insight into demand and allowed the student team to perfect their approach. The additions to the shop are expected to help the students and the school community.

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