Central Texas school district opens café to prepare students with disabilities for the workforce

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 2:33 PM CDT
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GROESBECK, Texas (KWTX) - Groesbeck ISD students celebrated the grand opening of the district’s new café, the Red Goat Café, which provides a welcoming learning environment for students with disabilities.

The life skills students, a program for students with physical, developmental or intellectual disabilities, are employees at the café, giving them the opportunity to have hands-on experience gaining life and job skills for post-graduate workforce opportunities.

Students are brewing coffee, blending smoothies and working with customers to serve them their orders.

The café, which is open to the public four days a week, also includes culinary arts students.

”I wanted to create something where these kids really had a sense of with other general ed people or even people in the community,” Groesbeck ISD Superintendent Anthony Figueroa said. “Since it’s not a part of the culture within the district, it’s not part of the culture in the community, but we need to develop that culture of understanding and support humanity, inclusiveness and success for these kids.”

Culinary arts student, Emily Richards, said she wanted to work with life skills students for the café because of a personal connection to the program.

“My sister Abigail, she’s a wonderful little girl, sweet as can be...when she first got diagnosed with autism, we were surprised,” Richards said. “It was hard for us, but we’re going through it. She’s the number one reason why I joined, and I love working with all these wonderful people, these students. They are amazing. They are great, and I just think it’s an amazing opportunity to work here with them.”

Elizabeth Silva is also a culinary arts student who joined the class not only to get three school credits but also because she enjoys working with these students who she has known for many years.

“It’s really special,” she said. “We get to create this amazing bond with the students. Also for me, it’s like a learning opportunity because I get to learn what it is to work with different types of people.”

This was one of the goals for opening the Red Goat Café, according to Figueroa.

“This is a great opportunity to where we’re building empathy and understanding success and just making some incredible bonds with one another and making sure that everybody feels like they’re a contributor to this community,” he said.

The café was renovated about a year ago, initially reinvented to become a restaurant for high school culinary arts students to open. Figueroa said, because the building was located about two miles from the high school, it was almost impossible to bus students there constantly every day.

Figueroa thought this was a perfect opportunity to create a café for students with disabilities to run, gaining hands-on experience and knowledge of the workplace and service industry.

“We’re trying to build a culture of inclusiveness, build a culture of understanding one another and making sure that everybody has the right to maximize their potential,” he said.

The slogan for the Red Goat Café is “Abilities Outweigh Disabilities” which can be found on students’ T-shirts and merchandise available at the coffee shop.

The shop features multiple flavors of coffee, smoothies and ‘goat’ biscuits and pastries.

Students prepare the café on Monday’s by organizing the different stations in the kitchen and preparing portions for coffee and smoothie making.

Customers can order when they walk in the door with an order form where they can mark what items they would like to purchase. Then, they will be given a punch card with a $10 minimum. The punch card will be used to pay at the counter. Students will punch out the amount you owe at the counter.

The Red Goat Café is open from 8:15 to 10:15 a.m. Tuesday’s through Friday’s whenever school is in session.