Good things brewing at North Vancouver student-run café

If you’re ever in the Central Lonsdale area on a Friday and get a craving for a mid-morning snack, a wholesome new endeavour running out of the North Vancouver School District office has got you covered.

The Higher Grounds (Chílhinup) Café opened for the first time Friday, Oct. 11, with Grade 12 and 13 students from the district’s Inclusive Education program for complex learners serving up coffee and baked goods out of a nifty little hole in the wall at NVSD headquarters.

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“It was a huge hit. … Everybody loved those granola bites,” said Neeru Parmar, the school district’s work experience facilitator and staff organizer for the project. “We had three tables, with three chairs to each table, and they were full. People loved sitting and mingling with their co-workers. … We’ll have [to add] more tables.”

The project was created as a way for Inclusive Education students from Sutherland and Carson Graham to experience a work-like environment and get a taste of what life will be like after high school.

“It gives them a lot of skills,” said Parmar. “I want these kids to feel that they can contribute to the community, and give them enough skills that they can land on their two feet outside after high school.”

It was a blast to see the students jump into action during the café’s first opening, said Parmar.

“They were amazing. I just asked who wants to pour coffee and who wants to take orders, and they both picked and they were great at it. They were very chit-chatty, and they were tallying up the money and they were so proud of counting.”

Everything at the café is sold by-donation – there are no price tags – and supplies so far have been donated by North Vancouver’s Moja Coffee and Two Daughters Bakeshop. Money collected at the café will be used to buy extra supplies, with anything left over at the end of the school year going towards a year-end outing for the students.

The café is scheduled to run every Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. – Thursdays when Friday is a professional development day – at 2121 Lonsdale Ave. The café is already up and running, but an official grand opening celebration will be held on Friday, Nov. 1.

The initiative is a great way for the students to experience the work world and also a valuable opportunity for members of the community to meet the students and see them in action, said Parmar.

“I want the community to see them,” she said. “I really want to empower these students. Every time I see it I have a smile on my face when I see them do something out in the community.”

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