What's brewing at Alpha Hart? Hot coffee and small-business skills – Columbia Missourian

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Damon Williams, 11, left, and James Richardson, 10, pour sugar into cups for the Coffee Cart Club on Friday at Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School in Columbia. The club delivers drinks to teachers and staff around the school and teaches its student workers math and business skills. The coffee cart is in its third year of operation at the school.
Trinity Wright, 11, holds a hot chocolate order Friday at Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School in Columbia. This is Wright’s second year working at the Coffee Cart Club after the program took a pause last year because of COVID-19.
From left, Damon Williams, 11, James Richardson, 10, and Isabella Spear, 9, hurry through the hallway to return money to the Coffee Cart Club on Friday at Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School in Columbia. Isabella says she loves delivering coffee to her teachers. “My mom said ‘Stay away from coffee!’ but I tried to sneak some anyways.”
Trinity Wright, 11, left, delivers hot chocolate to Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary nurse Karla James on Friday at Alpha Hart in Columbia. James has worked at the school for 11 years and says she is happy to support the Coffee Cart Club’s third year of business.
Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary Assistant Principal Kelly Isenogle, right, helps Isabella Spear, 9, calculate how much change is due after paying for a Coffee Club drink on Friday in Columbia. “The club lets them bond between classes, and it’s a great educational experience,” Isenogle said.
Trinity Wright, 11, left, delivers hot chocolate to Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary nurse Karla James on Friday at Alpha Hart in Columbia. James has worked at the school for 11 years and says she is happy to support the Coffee Cart Club’s third year of business.
Damon Williams, 11, left, and James Richardson, 10, pour sugar into cups for the Coffee Cart Club on Friday at Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School in Columbia. The club delivers drinks to teachers and staff around the school and teaches its student workers math and business skills. The coffee cart is in its third year of operation at the school.
Students in green barista aprons carrying steaming cups of coffee bustled through Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School on Friday as members of the Coffee Cart Club made their weekly deliveries.
“Teachers probably like coffee so much because it wakes them up in the morning,” said fifth grader Trinity Wright, earning a laugh from teacher Casey Lee.
“We certainly need it!” Lee said.
Teachers and staff at Alpha Hart can get their Friday caffeine fix while students in all grades learn real-world business skills by making, selling and delivering coffee through the Coffee Cart Club.
“Our principal really believes in the value of our kids having jobs and gaining real world experience,” Lee, who runs the club, said.
We are back and better than ever! ☕️Thank you teachers and staff for supporting our small business! 💙💚#baristasintraining #CoffeeCart #CPSbest @AHLPTA pic.twitter.com/p6tosQzGmG
The coffee cart is in its third year of operation at the school in northern Columbia. It is funded by Alpha Hart’s parent-teacher association but run entirely by students with supervision from Lee.
Trinity Wright, 11, holds a hot chocolate order Friday at Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School in Columbia. This is Wright’s second year working at the Coffee Cart Club after the program took a pause last year because of COVID-19.
“We prep the coffees, the cup has their name and what they want on it, then we deliver it to them,” fifth grader Damon Williams said.
Teachers may choose coffee, tea or hot chocolate for $1 as well as buy “thanks a latte” gift certificates for their coworkers.
“It’s a hot chocolate day for me,” said fourth grader Isabella Spear, whose job for the day was turning on the coffee machine. “I tried coffee once in the second grade, but my mom said no more because it makes me too hyper.”
The kids are in charge of assembling the beverages based on orders submitted by teachers via a Google form the night before, delivering them and making change when necessary.
“So if she wants three gift certificates and a coffee, how much are you going to get for it?,” Lee asked Trinity.
After pausing to think and counting her numbers on her fingers, she confidently responded, “$4!”
“Everyone at the school is very patient and understanding if someone forgets to run back change,” Lee explained.
From left, Damon Williams, 11, James Richardson, 10, and Isabella Spear, 9, hurry through the hallway to return money to the Coffee Cart Club on Friday at Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School in Columbia. Isabella says she loves delivering coffee to her teachers. “My mom said ‘Stay away from coffee!’ but I tried to sneak some anyways.”
Later, Isabella ran to Lee. “I got a tip!” she said, beaming as she held up her dollar bill. Lee said she uses the student tips for employee appreciation events, such as pizza parties and morning doughnuts.
Tips are common for the coffee cart club members. After delivering a free thank-you coffee to the school custodian, Kimberly Woods, or Ms. Kim as she is known, the runner returned with a quarter for each of the kids staffing the cart that day.
Just like a traditional coffee shop, Alpha Hart’s coffee cart club has its regular customers. On Friday, there was something like a small battle over who could take teacher Rebekah Wright her coffee.
“I want to take Ms. Wright her coffee this week,” several voices exclaimed.
“Ms. Wright always orders two coffees,” Lee explained, laughing after sending two students on their way. “She has six kids at home, so she needs it.”
“I’ve had several of these kids in class over the years, so it’s good to see them again making their deliveries,” Wright later said after visiting Lee’s classroom with her coffee in hand. “Also, I tip in candy.”
Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary Assistant Principal Kelly Isenogle, right, helps Isabella Spear, 9, calculate how much change is due after paying for a Coffee Club drink on Friday in Columbia. “The club lets them bond between classes, and it’s a great educational experience,” Isenogle said.

Students at the place-based ag school were all smiles and giggles as they ran out to show off their favorite pumpkins.
Assistant city editor, summer 2021. Former education reporter, spring 2021. I am a Masters student studying news editing. Reach me at [email protected] or on Twitter @MadiStephens6.
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Elizabeth Brixey is the Columbia Missourian’s education editor and an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and [email protected]
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