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Middle schoolers in Lower Burrell are brewing something special for their teachers

November 26, 2018

Barista Jacob Dunseath arrived at work Friday, took out his time card, clocked in and began getting ready for the day.

He put on a blue apron with his name tag attached and started stocking a rolling coffee cart with coffee creamer.

Friday was the maiden voyage of the HMS Treat Trolley at Charles A. Huston Middle School in Lower Burrell.

That’s right, a middle school.

Jacob, 12, is in Ashley Shields’ intensive learning support class, and the HMS Treat Trolley is a way to help Dunseath and his seven classmates expand their vocational skills.

“The learning opportunities are endless with this for this kind of environment and classroom,” Shields said. “It provides a lot of lessons and teaching opportunities for us.”

The trolley offers coffee, tea and treats. The students will walk the halls and serve teachers, administrators and staff every Friday. Each will have a different job. Some will be responsible for stocking the cart. Others will make coffee. There will be a cashier and servers. Some will greet customers.

Shields said the trolley will give the students the opportunity to work on soft skills such as interacting with adults and other students their age. It also will give them a sense of responsibility and independence.

Jackson Beck made coffee and greeted customers Friday. Kierstin Boyer took coffee orders. Cora Kobelenske handed out cookies.

“I like everything,” Kierstin said about working with the trolley.

Lower Burrell K-9 Patrolman Stephen Cernava was one of the trolley’s first customers.

“I think it’s great,” he said.

In addition to learning vocational skills, Shields said the trolley can help her students figure out their interests.

They will clock in, wash their hands and follow a checklist like they would at a real job. They will work with the money they make and learn how to budget. They also will take inventory so they know when things need to be refilled and go to the store to buy things to restock the cart.

“Any aspect that we can expose them to, we are going to,” Shields said.

The trolley was made possible through donations raised by Courtney Kobelenske and her sister, Kylie Lash, who own Cora Lee Cupcakes. Kobelenske’s daughter, Cora, is in Shields’ class.

Shields initially applied for a grant to fund the trolley, and when she didn’t get it, the sisters stepped in.

Kobelenske set up a birthday fundraiser on Facebook, asking for donations. She asked for up to $300 and ended up raising $800. Tips from the cupcake shop also went toward the trolley.

“We just went to town. Bought all the goods, got it rolling. Cora Lee Cupcakes is going to supply their treats -- the baked goods for the cart. That’s how it started. She didn’t get the grant. We said it’s a great idea; we’re going to bring the program to the school,” Kobelenske said.

Shields said several teachers from the district pitched in to fund the trolley. She was surprised by the generosity.

“It’s truly amazing how many people in the community have reached out,” she said.

Kobelenske hopes the trolley will show that students like her daughter, who has autism, can do cool things.

“I always say I know I’m not raising the next doctor; I’m just trying to make a kiddo that’s going to be functional so when I am not here ... I know she’s going to be OK,” Kobelenske said. “She works here at the shop with us, too. She’s awesome.”

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