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Getting to know your neighbor: The bagels are warm and the coffee is fresh, at the Griffin Cafe

WHAT CAN WE GET YOU? — Workers at the Griffin Cafe are pictured, serving customers and preparing goodies for S-GI students and staff members. Photos by Dave DeLuca.
SPRINGVILLE — Springville-Griffith Institute High School special education teacher Kelly Zifra and her students started cooking in class, as a way to teach participants the basic fundamentals of the skill.

Zifra said that, instead of just her students’ enjoying the fruit of their labors, she wanted to share their cooking, with the rest of the school.

The Griffin Cafe started with a banquet table, laden on Friday mornings. Zifra’s class served coffee and baked goods, to the high school staff. The class bought two boxes of coffee and made sweet treats, to sell.

Zifra said that requests to add bagels came in first, followed by customers’ asking for tea. “Before they knew it,” the students were operating a direct water line coffee machine and a hot chocolate machine, which had been donated. The cafe started selling toaster pastries, Gatorade®, fruit slushies, granola and more.

The endeavor has now evolved into a school-wide cafe that serves high school students on Wednesdays and Fridays, from 7:30 – 10 a.m.

KICK BACK AND RELAX — Students at Springville-Griffith Institute wait in line, to order at the Griffin Cafe, as other customers hang out at the tables.

“It benefits a lot of different people: the students [and] the faculty,” Zifra said, about the cafe. “I’ve had parents tell me, ‘It’s great to know, on a Wednesday or a Friday, if my son or daughter is running late for school, I can send a couple bucks and they can get a decent breakfast.’ Kids can grab snacks for after school, if they’re in a club or on a sports team. It’s really nice.”

Zifra and her students run the various cafe operations, including cooking, cleaning, taking inventory, counting money and operating the cash register. The students are being exposed to New York State Career Development and Occupational Studies learning standards, while obtaining work readiness skills, according to Zifra.

“It benefits my students a lot, too,” she said. “We’re learning work skills, to help us get ready for a job. Basic things like counting money, giving change, socializing and giving eye contact. It’s giving them real life experiences that a basic business or restaurant has, in their job descriptions.”

GOOD EATS — Sarah Byrne (left) and Gabby Hartman stand, with bagels and beverages purchased from the Griffin Cafe, before heading off to class.

While the cafe does make a gross profit, at the end of the day, the money earned is put back into the school. The cafe has donated food for the last two years’ spring flings, has purchased banners in the hallway for each sports team at S-GI, supplied items for the science Olympiad team and has purchased food for the post prom party. The cafe crew bought all of the food for the academic recognition hot dog lunch and cooked and served the meal.

“One way or another, it goes back into the school,” Zifra said. “It can help all sorts of things in the school, from sports to clubs to classes and everywhere in between. It’s nice that the kids can pay some money, for a cup of coffee, and then look in the hall and see a banner or a picture that the cafe purchased, with the proceeds.”

The student-run cafe utilizes volunteers from the rest of the school, to help with its daily responsibilities. Seven volunteers are currently being used. According to Zifra, while the students are getting volunteer hours, they are also enjoying the benefits of getting much-needed work skills and learning how to deal with people.

While the cafe has been in operation for four years, now, only one current worker had experience in the cafe. “That was really a challenge,” Zifra said. “There really is a lot of stuff going behind the scenes, that may be very small, but they are really important. Things like rotating stock. For example, we stopped making and selling parfaits, because not enough students were buying them. We are now planning on them putting them on the menu again, because of the spring season. You can’t teach that kind of stuff, overnight.”

Zifra said that many students have asked that the cafe be open on more days and have longer hours. She said that, if the cafe’s operation time was expanded, students could grab a snack, throughout the day. The shop could potentially offer lunch for kids who have forgotten a bag lunch.

“It provides a much more convenient and safer alternative than leaving the building and rushing back from a contest, practice or meeting,” said Kim Byrnes, a teacher aid who helps in the cafe.

The shop is set up in a former classroom on the high school’s first floor. It includes tables that can be utilized for eating and homework, during study halls. Students may also utilize the computers located inside the cafe.

Teaching assistant Susan Krezmien helps out with the operations of the Griffin Cafe, along with Zifra.

“It’s just a great atmosphere, for everyone,” Krezmien said. “The kids who are working are dealing with the public. They’re learning to interact with other students, on a daily basis. They are learning money skills, which are very important, no matter what you want to do, in life. Everyone does a great job with it; just the students buying the food, to the students’ working.”


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