Campus Cafe’ Now Open for Staff and Students

Mackillop Web Immage

A tuck-shop or canteen is a key feature at schools, however a campus café run by students? Now that’s something new.

With the help of a grant from the Geelong Community Foundation, MacKillop Family Services’ Geelong Specialist School opened its very own student-run on campus café, designed to provide students with the skills required to positively transition into future employment.

MacKillop has been supporting the community since it was formed in 1997. The organisation supports disadvantaged and vulnerable children, young people and families across NSW, Victoria and Western Australia through early intervention services, residential and foster care, education support and youth homelessness services.

MacKillop also supports disadvantaged and vulnerable young people through its two specialist schools in Geelong and Maidstone. These schools are designed to provide a positive learning environment for students disengaged, or at risk of disengaging from school. The Geelong school in Whittington is open to students aged five to 18 and aims to provide both education and social supports. It is here that the Bitter Sweet Café opened its doors in June 2018.

The café program targets students aged 16-19, providing them with the skills necessary to positively transition into future employment and training. Recognised under the curriculum of the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL), this innovative program allows young people the opportunity to access hands-on education and experience. By running their own café, students can develop essential skills for success in the hospitality industry.

According to one teacher involved in the program, the café is an “ideal launching pad for students to develop skills and confidence necessary to gain future employment”. Throughout the program students are given individual responsibilities, while completing VCAL’s work related skills learning outcomes. The program also enables them to gain their Level 1 Barista Certificate, along with certificates in food handling and food preparation. The program was so popular when it launched that student attendance improved 20%.

Students are involved in all aspects of the café, from designing the menu and pricing to preparing the food. This gives them the opportunity to enhance their literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills, while also building their social and communication skills. Sustainability is also on the menu with coffee grounds recycled in the VCAL kitchen garden and customers encouraged to bring their own reusable cups.

With the Philanthropy 500 (P500) grant provided by the Geelong Community Foundation, MacKillop will continue building on the café’s success and provide more learning opportunities to a greater number of students.

The P500 grant process is streamlined and simple to follow, providing local community organisations with a vital opportunity for funding, and locals the opportunity to make a real difference to what matters most in their community. The contribution and benefits provided by P500 and the foundation are enormously valuable, particularly as a support for local organisations working to overcome issues applicable to the Geelong region.

MacKillop’s Specialist School and the Bitter Sweet Café program provides students with opportunities to reengage with education and connect with their fellow students. Students are unable to access education in mainstream schools due to a range of issues including a clinical diagnosis of depression, anxiety, autism, defiance disorder and/or challenging behaviours that make it difficult for them to focus on learning.

As Talia, a student participating in the café program said:“The experience has been absolutely great, especially being able to connect with people in a different way. It was nice to know I had everyone by my side to help me through my job and the day. If more schools gave them (students) an experience like this, everyone would want to go and would enjoy school a whole lot more.”