The Warm Up: WJ’s very own coffee shop serves staff


Photo by Sammie Cohen

A student worker at The Warm Up gives a customer, Psychology teacher Nicole McCarn, her change after purchasing a coffee. His favorite part of working at The Warm Up is taking orders.

What’s a morning without coffee? In Feb., a new coffee shop was launched and opened to all WJ staff. Run by the students of the Learning for Independence (LFI) program, the shop operates Tuesday-Friday during periods one to three and has been a huge success since opening.

A large part of the LFI curriculum is providing students with various unique work opportunities within the community. While many students work in retail, the food service or hospitality industry was something that the program wanted to also incorporate to provide a different experience. And so, “The Warm Up” was born.

The idea of an in-school work opportunity was originally initiated due to the pandemic with students being unable to leave campus for work. Transition Support Teacher Allycia Joseph was asked by the school’s Resource Teacher of Special Education (RTSE) to learn more about implementation strategies from other schools in Montgomery County. Joseph works alongside Special Education Teacher Kayla Bernier and College Career Research & Development (CCRD) Teacher Emily Fleisher to oversee the shop. The shop is currently run by nine LFI students, two DHs and several CCRD students.

“This shop has been so beneficial to the WJ community. Not only are our students getting real-world work experience, but the staff are also coming together as well. We are still coming out of the pandemic and virtual teaching. On numerous occasions, I’ve heard staff greeting and learning about each other for the first time, putting names with faces, learning what subjects they teach, discussing personal lives and making connections. I even heard two teachers plan a lesson together. It’s been really beautiful to see,” Joseph said.

In preparing for the grand opening, the students learned about job applications, coffee shops, designs and information to include on flyers and the equipment they’d be working with. The shop also serves tea and hot chocolate.

“What I do is taking orders and I love taking orders,” a student worker of The Warm Up said.

The students exercise important life skills through their work, whether it be customer service, money skills or simply collaboration with their peers.

“Seeing the growth in the students both professionally as well as socially has been so fun to watch! They have worked so hard and they are, rightfully so, proud of themselves!” Bernier said.

Since opening in February, the shop has accumulated over $1,400 in sales and they plan on only improving in the months to come.