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Cleveland High School Students Get Down to Business Over Coffee

students and johnson
The Lawyers' Cafe crew: (l. to r.) Monisa Mason, Adalis Sanchez, Jessica Whitmer, John Johnson, Janiyah Dowdell and Cha'nice Gunn

Students at a Cleveland high school that’s focused on business now have their own coffee shop.

A craft coffee company that roasts its beans near John Marshall High School is helping students run the new “Lawyers’ Café.”

Every customer gets a friendly welcome at Lawyer’s Café. But before the bell rings, someone needs a latte. So Adalis Sanchez gets right down to business.

“The beans are going to get grinded. Then I tap it on the counter to make sure it’s flat.” 

Adalis is 15. She’s very new at this, but she has expert help. Rising Star Coffee executive John Johnson often takes the 10-minute drive to the school from his Ohio City roastery.

“She just inserted the porta filter in the machine,” Johnson observes, “and now she’s going to activate the pump and start pulling the shot.” 

Adalis Sanchez loves making espresso.

This ninth- grader isn’t just making a caramel iced latte. She helped design and name it.

“The Creamy Dream, our signature drink. So, it’s an espresso shot with milk and then flavoring.” 

Same coffee served at Rising Star cafes
Rising Star Coffee Roasters supplies the beans.

“Same quality coffee that we have in our shops. They’re using the direct-trade blend which is like a really traditional American breakfast blend. It make like a really nice kind of carmelly, chocolaty shot of espresso.” 

The Creamy Dream is selling well as Adalis expected.

“I’m also team leader of the marketing group.” 

There’s also a customer service group and a finance and operations group behind the Lawyers Café.

John Marshall’s Community and Business Coordinator Monisa Mason says before the café opened, Adalis’s marketing team conducted a survey.

“And then based off of the results of that we found that a caramel iced latte would probably be a popular drink.” 

Putting professionals to shame
John Johnson is one of Rising Star Coffee’s top executives. And he’s in awe.

“They’re already better than like 99 percent of independent coffee shops. God knows we never did any market research at Rising Star. So in many ways they put us to shame.” 

Sara Kidner is principal of John Marshall’s School of Civic and Business Leadership.

She’s just as proud of her students and just as pleased with their coffee.

“It’s amazing. We actually picked our partner Rising Star Coffee because we really do love their products, a high-quality fair trade coffee.”

Johnson had fun showing students how to brew it.

“We kind of just approached everyone here like they were an employee in our café, and kind of wanted to give them all the tools they need to make coffee. You need to know how to explain it to people... but definitely the hands-on training is the biggest part, and the most fun I think, getting all the kids to pull shots and brew coffee.” 

Students are the bosses
PrincipalKidner says the Lawyer’s Café crew benefits from professional guidance, but they’ve taken charge of the business themselves.

“The students have been involved in everything from the very beginning, planning, doing research and development to pick out a menu, doing marketing, doing inventory and making sure we were fully stocked to open the store.”  

Named for John Marshall’s mascot and athletic teams, Lawyer’s Cafe opened last month in a brand new building on campus. 

Sara Kidner
Principal Sara Kidner is a favored customer at Lawyers' Cafe.

Lawyer’s Café is the school’s first student-run business.

“We have a couple other businesses in the works actually" “says Kidner. “Next fall we are planning to roll out a credit union where students can actually open savings accounts here on site. We can teach them about financial literacy.”

Eventually to open to the school’s neighbors
The café hasn’t been open to the school’s surrounding community.

“But that is a long-term plan for us, “says the principal. “So we’re trying to work out the logistics between security of getting people in and out of the building. We’re talking about maybe car-hopping to do an option to try and make that work.”

The coffee shop is already serving several needs at the school.

“Not only to learn how to run a business, but also to be a hub and a community point for the whole building. And of course all the adults are excited to have good coffee in the building as well. It’s an extra benefit.” 

Ninth-grader Janiyah Dowdell likes her job. “It’s something new. It’s a great experience.” 

But she doesn’t really like coffee. “If it has like a lot of creamer in it and it tastes really good, then yeah.”  Running a coffee shop is not in her plans. “I want to be a defense lawyer.” 

Janiyah Waddell
Janiyah Dowdell wants to be a defense lawyer but says running a coffee shop is fun, too.

Transferable skills
But skills she’s developing here might pay off. Janiyah’s co-leader on the customer service team, 10th grade barrista Jessica Whitmer says they’re both changing.

“It makes us more sociable. Some of us we came in here, when we first started, we didn’t like speaking a lot to other people that we didn’t know or anything. And now like a lot of the cashiers are, me and Janiya talk to anybody. We don’t have a problem with it anymore, at all. It’s easy.” 

Security guard David Camron stops by often for a smoothie.“We have wildberry, mango, peach, and strawberry-banana,” says Jessica.  

security guard
School security guard David Camron likes wildberry smoothies.

Camron chooses a wildberry smoothie and ninth-grader Cha’nice Gunn gets right to work on it.

“First I’m going to apply the ice, and then I will pour 6 ounces of the smoothie mix, and then I’ll just blend it together.”

It comes out just to Camron’s liking. "I think it’s fantastic and I tell them this all the time.”

Building confidence
School psychologist Marie McGlathery’s opting today for the signature drink, the Creamy Dream iced latte. “I got it last week. It’s really good actually.” 

She thinks the café’s good for the school.

“I think it increases morale in the building because coffee makes everybody happy.”  

Most of all she likes what it’s doing for the students running the business. “They’re doing a really good job here, and they should feel good about themselves. I think it builds self-confidence.” 

School psychologist Marie McGlathery chooses an iced latte.

Students receive class credit for work at the café.  Proceeds help fund extra-curricular school activities.

Some of the staff at Lawyer’s Café have never held a job before. Rising Star Coffee’s John Johnson tells them learning to make artisan coffee will help them in future endeavors.

“This isn’t just like flipping burgers. Trying to make good coffee is really difficult. To be able to not just learn it but to execute it in a work environment, it’s really impressive. I really am proud of you guys. You’ve done a great job.”