Mat-Su Career and Technical High School is unique for many reasons. It prepares its students for future careers. It has a student body from all over the valley. It has less than 500 full-time students, and more than 100 part-time students. It has the aesthetic feel of trendy, brand new school. And it has its own student-operated café.

When Mat-Su Career and Technical High School first opened, the idea for a school-based business was part of the original plan. The initial idea was to have some type of business for students to practice customer service skills and mechanism to raise funds for Career and Technical Student Organizations. Funding was already in place with a Carl Perkins Grant; all that was left was to come up with a legitimate idea. When students from Lacey Rucker’s logistics and accounting classes got in on the plan, the idea of an espresso/drink stand really took off.

Work on opening the café began in the spring of 2010. Finding a space, obtaining the inventory and equipment, deciding suppliers and training workers were all necessary in order to get the café in business.

Kaladi Brothers helped out significantly when they included CTHS as part of their “Community Pricing,” offering lower prices on supplies. That way, the café could actually make a profit.

Finally, in September 2011, the café officially opened. At the beginning of the school year, Kaladi Brothers put on a special training session. Students who were interested in learning how to make coffee using the new equipment were encouraged to sign up, even if they didn’t eventually work in the Tech Café. They learned how to make the various types of coffee drinks listed on the menu for the Tech Café, even getting hands-on experience.

Then, in April, a decision was made to remodel. The space originally being used was part of a conference room, with only the bare necessities. Changes were needed to allow more efficient operation and provide a more professional environment for both workers and customers. Renovations are almost complete, and reopening is projected for the end of November.

The café is just like any other drink stand. It offers a variety of drinks, from tea and coffee to smoothies and Italian sodas. They have monthly specials, and a special Tech Café drink cup that gives customers reduced prices each time they use it. Staff members are given the option of charging drinks to an account, for which students in accounting classes then produce bills. The only difference is, students do all the production of drinks and serving.

Students work, of course, on a voluntary basis. All proceeds go to benefit the different CTSOs. This money is used to pay memberships and raise funds for annual CTSO conferences. Not only that, but students earn essential skills they can use for future employment opportunities. Customer service, money handling, drink sales, accounting…no matter what career each student is pursuing, they are gaining valuable work experience that will help them in any job. And isn’t that what Career Tech is all about?

Anita Laulainen is a junior at Mat-Su Career and Technical High School.

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