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Common Grounds Brews Up Some New Ideas

“We are hoping to expand upon the coffee cart we have now, which is run entirely by students volunteering time to work shifts to develop job skills,” said Devon Parson, the district’s Pathways to Independence Program Coordinator. After five years of business, the cafe has experienced some normal wear and tear, and there are some additional needs in order to keep up with health regulations and customer demand soo the program is looking to raise some funds to build a more permanent structure for the coffee cart and to update aging equipment.


Among the approximate 25 students who staff the cafe, the cafe concept supports students in learning every element of running the cafe; this may include starting as a busser and then taking on four other job opportunities before reaching the top opportunity, which is top barista. The staff who support the work at the cafe also work with students to develop the social skills that are necessary in a customer service environment. Students not only learn on the job skills, but other important skills to obtaining independency in the community, such as accessing public transportation, reporting tardies or absences, dressing appropriate for the job place, learning how to handle money, and food handling. The main goal of this program is to help these students use these skills to find employment in the community and gain independence. Some program alumni have gained successful employment thanks to the skills obtained through this program, including a student who is presently pursuing a degree in accounting.


“We would like to incorporate more students into the work experience job site, with this upgrade we would have the opportunities to get more students involved in the program as well as serve more patrons in the library,” Parson continued.


“We are looking at a permanent structure,” says Marcy Lawrence, director of Exceptional Student Services at Durango School District 9-R.  ‘Common Grounds has been a vital component of our transition programming, leading to positive post-secondary outcomes for students.”


The Common Grounds Cafe team from 9-R is working closely with the Durango Library and the Friends of the Library to raise $35,000 for these upgrades. Donations can be accepted on the GoFundMe Site https://www.gofundme.com/common-grounds-cafe through the Friends of the Library, or directly to the Durango 9-R School District located at 201 E. 12th Street. So far, the program has been able to raise almost $4,000 for the project, primarily through the Holly Trolly fundraiser on Noel Night and through the GoFundMe website.


“The Friends of the Library have created a special fund for the cafe, so they are supporting the fundraising efforts,” says Sandy Irwin, director of the Durango Library. “They also committed some of their funds to the project. The Library Advisory Board also has some funds that were collected when the building was built. The cafe has been a passion of the Advisory Board so they will help fill any gaps at the end of the fundraising efforts but don’t have the means to fund the entire project. It’s important for the community to participate in community causes that they are passionate about and support the work the kids are doing.”


The crew is hoping to begin construction this summer to have the cafe grand re-opening at the start of the new 2019/2020 school year. The cafe will continue to partner with local businesses who have supported the concept since the beginning, including Bread Bakery, Desert Sun Roasters and Zuberfizz.


“What an amazing collaboration between 9-R, Library and City,” said Cara Kropp , Transitions Teacher at Durango High School. “This is such a great example of how collaborations can be very successful.” For more information or to get involved in the effort, visit durangoschools.org or email us at info@durangoschools.org.

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