As the door to the Snack Shack swings open, one is greeted with the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and Nathan’s beaming face calling, “Hello, welcome to the Snack Shack. How are you today? How can I help you?”
Nathan, 19, is a day student in the Perkins’ Building Educational Success through Transitions Program (BESTT). The BESTT program is a results-oriented, community-based program focused on improving academic and pre-vocational achievement of students ages 16-22. All BESTT students volunteer at the Snack Shack at least once a week as part of their vocational program training.
The Snack Shack is housed in the A-frame beside the middle school on the Perkins campus and has been up and running for just over a year. What started as a part time coffee shop for staff and students on campus has morphed into a place where staff and students can come for breakfast sandwiches, baked goods, and lunch on Fridays. Nathan spends two days a week in the Snack Shack as a volunteer learning about customer service, food handling, money management and communications.
“I like to work at the cash register the most,” Nathan said. “I like to work the buttons and I think it is cool to tell people how much they owe and make change.” Other students are excited about the opportunity to provide delivery service on campus. Administrative Assistant Tracy Tallman is a regular delivery customer of the Snack Shack. “They are really on top of things down there,” she said. “I get delivery at least twice a week. The kids are great. They deliver my coffee, cold drinks and lunch on Friday. I love it!”
Making food and change is not all that is taught at the Snack Shack; however. Nathan is also learning what it takes to stock the Snack Shack – which is open from 8:45am to 2pm Monday through Friday- by going along to pick up supplies. “We get cold cuts, soda, coffee, sugar, cream and things like eggs and flour so we can make cookies. We make chocolate chip and sugar cookies almost every day,” Nathan said. “We need the right supplies to do that.”
BESTT teacher Jessica Marois explained that all of the kids in the program are learning life skills. “The kids have one day of instruction, they volunteer in the Snack Shack, and they work on job development and life skills regularly,” she said. “Working in the Snack Shack reinforces communication and money management for all students, but for the students that are hoping to follow a culinary route the learning is more intense. They help to prepare the staff lunch on Friday and do more of the prep work and cooking,” Jessica said.” Staff lunch is served at the Snack Shack every Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
If you would like a chance to meet the BESTT students and experience some of their wares, they invite you to stop in for coffee and cookies Monday through Fridays. They are often represented at various events around campus as well. The chocolate chip cookies come highly recommended especially when paired with pumpkin spice coffee.