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December 11, 2023

Baler Strong Coffee Company is born

Life Skills students learn the business

San Benito High School’s Life Skills Department has a partnership brewing with local business Java Express to form the Baler Strong Coffee Company.

The campus-based business assists students with special needs in developing and practicing social norms, communication skills, money-handling and team building, according to staff.

The coffee business, which launched in late 2018, takes email orders from campus clients only, offering coffee, Ghirardelli hot chocolate, hot tea and iced tea, along with a selection of baked goods to teachers, staff and administrators.

Organizers plan to make the Baler Strong coffee available to the public at school sporting events and activities.

Special education transition teacher Chalene Hernandez said the company is a revamped version of the Happy Cup business through which Life Skills students in recent years sold and delivered food and drinks to SBHS staff in order to build business skills.

“We want to include all special education students in the business,” she said, noting that Annie Goularte helped the business get off the ground with a $600 donation from the Gary Goularte Foundation.

Roger and Cindy McDonald, owners of Java Express, provided a register and stand, tickets and supplies including coffee and cups. The school district has provided an iPad to help with order processing, and students in the metals and woods programs at the high school are making a cart for the business.

“I wanted it to be the students taking a leadership role,” Hernandez said of the business. She also noted that it may expand to become a club and involve general education students.

Orders are accepted through a Google form emailed to Baler staff members, and the company is selling 16-ounce refillable tumblers.

The company plans to start with once-a-week orders but could expand. Java Express will offer seasonal flavors such as pumpkin spice and peppermint bark, in addition to a traditional coffee flavor.

The 12 Life Skills students in the Transitions program work Mondays and Wednesdays for Java, breaking down boxes and recycling, learning responsibility, developing skills and giving back to the local business that is helping support the effort.

Special education instructional aide Danielle Craig, an organizer of the recent Baler Buckaroos Life Skills Rodeo on campus, was a 15-year employee of Java Express.

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