Coffee program inspires inclusiveness at Papillion La Vista South

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PAPILLION, Neb. (WOWT) -- A Nebraska school will receive a national honor Tuesday. At a rally, Papillion La Vista South will be recognized by the head of the Special Olympics. The award for "National Unified Champion School" is in recognition of schools that provide inclusive sports and activities for students with and without disabilities. As WOWT’s Brian Mastre found out, the reasons behind the honor include a hot cup of joe and a message of inclusion.

Every morning, the students in a special education class step away from their desk and grab the apron. For the next half-hour, the teens are part barista, part delivery person. Teachers pay a ‘buck a cup’ to get Dunkin’ Donuts coffee straight to the classroom. It’s called Titan Brew.

“It’s not a hard thing to be inclusive,” special education instructor Nate Cain told WOWT. “Our kids take it and run with it.”

“Every time I go to a teacher, they say, 'Good morning' and give me a handshake right before I leave the room,” said Papillion La Vista South sophomore John Schmidtke.

“Teachers are taking that 10-seconds of their class time – which is valuable – but to shake hands – to work on those skills that our kids need to master for a job someday,” said Cain.

The idea percolated last year when one of the students said she wanted to work at a coffee shop after graduating. The staff figured why not start now.

“It transpires into lunch time. It affects passing time. It creates more of a connected culture in our building. It’s definitely student-driven,” Cain said.

Papillion La Vista South students also made a video about inclusion. It's about ending the use of the "R" word as a put down.

Mastre: “Do you even drink coffee yourself?”

Schmidtke: “No. Actually I drink milk every day.”

Schmidtke has seen his classmates confidence grow with the new social interactions. While barista may not be on his career list, he took the initiative to show WOWT’s Brian Mastre what is.

“For now, from Papio South High School, this is WOWT 6 News, Omaha,” Schmidtke said.

“You nailed it,” said Mastre.

“Hopefully they don’t cut that part of my voice off. I want to hear that part,” said Schmidtke.

More than 1,600 students attend Papillion La Vista South; 10-percent of the students are in special education.