Wiley’s Common Grounds is not so common

RFHS coffee shop class teaches business skills

River Falls High School offers a unique opportunity for students in the form of Wiley’s Common Grounds coffee shop, a student-run store that also doubles as a class. The class teaches students how to manage a business, learn about inventory, social media and marketing as well as how to work together.

The class is co-taught by Kris Thompson and Special Education teacher Cecily Gillis. The class allows for special education students and general education students to work together and gain real world experience.

The idea for this class started with students delivering coffee to faculty and staff with a coffee cart each morning in years prior. Students took that idea and ran with it and after getting the class approved, this is the first year it is taking action.

“This is the third year we are doing this,” Gillis said. “The very first year it started with just a cart and we would serve coffee to staff on Fridays… the vision was to open the coffee shop at some point.

“Whenever we can get the kids to work together that is good; it is an inclusive environment and for the gen ed kids it gives them the experience working with people with disabilities and will help them to work with them in the future.”

The class is structured to teach students the various positions and departments in a business. There is a general manager, operations, product specialist, events and hospitality and marketing departments that the students cycle through during the quarter.

The students learn each role so that they get a better understanding of every aspect in running a business. Student Emma McCorison, who is currently a part of the hospitality and events department said, “I’m very organized so I like this job. I plan when we are having events, like we had live music during homecoming and stuff like that.”

The shop is open during the week from 7-7:30 a.m., so students take the initiative and show up to school 45 minutes early to keep the shop and class in motion. The class is open to all grade levels and is one of many classes that are focusing on businessfocused lessons. The Wiley’s Common Grounds coffee shop has a Facebook page, Instagram and website that students and the community can go to for more information about the products and deals that the shop features each week. This is also a department that the students run.

The students really dive into their roles during class time. The class starts off with a meeting on how the business is performing and what they have to work on. After that they all break into their departments to get the work done.

Product specialist Lily Evanoff said, “I have to just look for the products that we need and we have to work within some guidelines on ingredients and calories, then I call stores in the area to see if it’s available.”

The shop has been lucky to have a lot of support from local businesses in the area and help from other departments to bring it all together. The art featured in the shop is from high school students, and some of the equipment was donated from the community.

They also get all of their coffee locally from River Moon Coffee, which is headquartered here in River Falls.

“They have been wonderful to work with and a great community partner,” Thompson said.

Classes such as this are gaining popularity among high school students. It helps prepare students for jobs past high school and similar classes they may take in higher education. Teaching students these skills during class allows them to take those skills into their real-world jobs as well.

Wiley’s Common Grounds’ menu features a variety of drinks that students and staff can choose from, also featuring a special drink each week. Photo by Melissa Thorud

River Falls High School students (from left) Karlee Bishop and Reagan Selleck preparing cups for the next day atWiley’s Common Grounds. Photo by Melissa Thorud

River Falls High School students Nate Gervais and Ryley Scott preparing lemonade for the next day at Wiley’s Common Grounds.Photo by Melissa Thorud

The entire group of students on the opening day of Wiley’s Common Grounds at River Falls High School. The class contributes to running the business on a daily basis. (From left): Nate Gervais, Ellie Hira, Ryley Scott, Giada Corazza, Lilly Evanoff, Marissa Weinzirl, Kaitlyn Cudd, Emma McCorison, Katelin Neidermyer. Photo courtesy of River Falls High School

October 13, 2021