Jaguar Java

Rocky Mount Prep student Christopher Allen delivers a cup of coffee to school nurse Carrie Spradley on Thursday as part of the service of the new Jaguar Java, a school-based enterprise that allows some high school EC students to prepare for future careers. Below, students Jernova McDowell, Jadakus Turner, Chastity Young and Xavier McDowell wait with teacher assistant Angela Mercer for customers to arrive at the Jaguar Java table.

Some high school students at Rocky Mount Preparatory School now are spending an hour each morning serving coffee at Jaguar Java, a school-based enterprise that now is open to Rocky Mount Prep staff members.

Jaguar Java is a coffee cart business run by Rocky Mount Prep EC students who are following an Extended Content Standards and Occupational Course Study. The coffee cart is operated from 8-9 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Arjonah Bullock-Balmer, the occupational course study teacher, and Rosita Richardson, the extended contents class teacher, serve as the adviser and mentor of the enterprise with the assistance of Angela Mercer, extended contents class assistant.

Jaguar Java began with a vision from Rocky Mount Prep’s director of specialized services, Andrea Dagnalan.

“As a former special education teacher who taught students with mild to moderate disabilities in middle school, I envisioned my students to be prepared for adult life and be able to support themselves,” Dagnalan said. “As educators, we should think about post-secondary transition and how we can help our students become equipped with the skills to navigate life after high school.”

Rocky Mount Prep student Christopher Allen told the Telegram much the same thing Thursday as he served coffee to a staff member at the school.

“I like my job,” he said. “It helps me learn how to get a job in the future.”

According to a press release from the charter school, Rocky Mount Prep began its coffee cart by purchasing start-up items from Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shop based in Wilmington. Bitty & Beau’s coffee carts are a catalyst for churches, businesses and organizations and schools like Rocky Mount Prep to promote the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities.

School-based enterprises are educational tools to help prepare students for the transition from school to work or college. This gives them opportunities to develop confidence, personal direction, responsibility, communication and leadership skills, the statement said. The six participating students were responsible for completing an extensive training curriculum that emphasized health, safety, proper hygiene and grooming, money management, beverage preparation, customer service, workplace behavior, job and occupational skills, attendance and punctuality.

“Here at Rocky Mount Prep, we aspire to build capacity for our scholars with disabilities so that they will acquire career awareness and entrepreneurial skills,” Dagnalan said.

Parents of participating students had the opportunity to partake in the Jaguar Java experience and see their children at work first-hand before opening day on Feb. 10.

“This is a brilliant idea to help our scholars develop independence. It’s a blessing,” said Christy Perry, mother of a participating student.

The cost of a cup of coffee is $1, however the Jaguar Java experience is priceless at Rocky Mount Prep, where every cup of coffee counts when it comes to affecting the lives and future of students, the press release said.

“We value diversity. We can’t value diversity without ensuring inclusion. Our mission says we will educate, equip and empower each scholar to excel,” said Chaunte Garrett, head of school at Rocky Mount Prep. “Jaguar Java is another way our team is ensuring that every scholar excels and leads in their destiny. We are proud of our team for bringing this to Rocky Mount Prep.”