The Daily Boost: Charlevoix students develop award-winning business skills with school coffee cart operation

Every Wednesday, students in Courtney Kretovic’s morning class man their stations. This particular week, Kamerin pulls on his rubber gloves and pours fresh hot coffee into disposable cups. Phillip measures just the right amount of simple syrup to sweeten a few for those special requests. Alyssia and Kylie sort diet and regular sodas by order forms. Jimmy gets the cash drawer ready, counts and confirms the amounts, and hands out change to the deliverers. Push carts get loaded with all the orders, and the carts start to roll out of the classroom and into the halls.

Around 10:45 a.m., Charlevoix Middle High School staff start to eagerly await their morning beverage delivery from the Daily Boost, a coffee cart operation that teaches Kretovic’s 10th-12th grade students with disabilities how to run a business and keep customers happy. 

“A few years ago the students helped run Tall Tales Tackle, a bait shop. It was a great opportunity for students to apply soft skills they were learning,” said Kretovic. “We wanted to bring that opportunity back. Daily Boost provides a work-like setting, allows students to connect with staff around the building, and gives them a great sense of pride.”

On any given Wednesday, the students prepare beverages for about 20 staff around the building. After teachers and administrators submit their orders via email, the students transfer them from a spreadsheet to order slips that get tucked with each cup of coffee, soda, or tea. Each week, the students swap roles including barista/baristo, custodian, stockers, servers and delivery cart drivers. 

Each drink costs $1. The students developed loyalty cards for $9. “If they buy a punch card, they save $1,” said Jimmy Descamps, 11th grade.

The students keep track of profits and purchase supplies for the weeks ahead. Some Wednesdays, they receive tips – $3 this week – which they split or put toward other uses.

One of the most generous uses of the profits and tip money came from the students at Christmas time, when they chose to “adopt” a child in need from the Char-Em ISD Snowman Project. Char-Em compiles a list of families who need a little help at the holidays, and staff adopt families and purchase gifts. The Daily Boost students showered a young boy with gifts from their booming business this year. “We bought a lot of books, toys and clothes,” said Kylie Eaton, an 11th grader. 

“I felt excited to buy Christmas presents for this little boy. It made me happy and proud we could make his Christmas nice,” said student Alyssia Russel. 

Kretovic had hoped to get the Daily Boost operating last school year, but like many things, the pandemic presented roadblocks. This year, the students were able to launch the business just before Thanksgiving.

“We made a list of the things we thought we would need and visited a couple coffee shops to learn more about it. That’s where we found our idea for the simple syrup,” said Kylie. (The sweetener recipe, by the way, is top secret.)

The students also surveyed staff about what items they would like to purchase, which helped develop inventory. Some weeks, Kretovic and the students use the life skills classroom’s kitchen to make baked goods, like cinnamon rolls and homemade caramels, that they deliver with the beverages as a special treat.

“A bunch of staff really look forward to it. Mr. Schultz really loves it!” said Kamerin Jensen, 11th. 

Unique projects like these in schools often catch the attention of others, and the Daily Boost has done just that. It will be honored with the Entrepreneurial Classroom of the Year Award at the Michigan Council for Exceptional Children in March. While this year’s annual awards conference is again online, Kretovic and her students will be invited to attend the next in-person event in March 2023.

“After hearing about the work that Courtney and her students were doing, it hit all of the marks for the MCEC award. This is not the first business that Courtney has organized for her students, so she’s showing that she’s always striving to put them in situations that they can learn employability and life skills in order to be successful post-high school,” said Ben Hicks, Director of Special Education for Char-Em ISD. “The students obviously deserve recognition for all of the hard work they’ve put into making the Daily Boost a success as well.”

While the students are having a good time delivering much-needed boosts to staff, they are also learning business skills and putting that knowledge to work in real life. “It also makes me think of my summer job at the Landing,” added Jimmy.

Liz Nachazel, Career Preparations Specialist for Char-Em ISD Career and Technical Education Department, said she enjoys watching the students put business skills into action each week. 

“The students in Mrs. Kretovic’s class continue to amaze me on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. On Tuesdays, students prep and organize for Wednesday – Daily Boost delivery day and the best day of the week!” said Nachazel. “I have seen tremendous growth in students’ employment skills, including organization, initiative, teamwork, and customer service as the year has progressed. The pride Mrs. K’s students take in the Daily Boost is evident in their commitment to making it a thriving and growing business.”







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