It’s not uncommon to see high school students working part-time as baristas, but it’s rare to see those same high schoolers managing the business as well.
That’s what you see at Crimson & Gray Powered by Lewis County Coffee at W.F. West High School: an in-school coffee shop fully run by the school’s business and marketing students.
Students in business and marketing teacher Kristin Ciolli’s classes split their class time between the coffee shop, where they take all the orders and make the drinks, and the classroom itself, where they go over the business’s finances and other managerial tasks.
After working out the kinks of running the shop last spring, Coilli’s Business and Marketing II students are planning to expand their product line and the business hours. Business and Marketing I students are currently working on obtaining their food handler’s licenses and will start working in the coffee shop in the spring semester.
Almost all of Ciolli’s Business and Marketing II students have been involved with Crimson & Gray since it opened in March and said they feel good about how the business is running.
“I feel like we’re really ready and we really know what we’re doing,” said sophomore and store treasurer Aubrey Prigmore.
“We’re ready to expand our product. We’re just about to put cookies out next week or the week after and we’re starting opening on mornings next week,” said sophomore Hailey Sturdevant.
As part of the business and marketing classes, students have the opportunity to take part in Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), an association of marketing students that encourages the development of business and leadership skills through academic conferences and competitions.
“It helps students build their leadership skills, 21st century skills, all of those things that we work on in the store but also in the classroom,” Ciolli said of DECA.
Ciolli was hired in the spring of 2022 as the first business and marketing teacher W.F. West has had in several years.
Last school year, Ciolli formed a partnership with Lewis County Coffee owners Samantha and Spike Magnuson and Angie Twining to open a coffee shop at W.F. West as a school-based business enterprise, defined by DECA as “a hands-on learning laboratory that provides practical learning experiences to reinforce classroom instruction.”
“They’re a great partner to work with and they’re willing to help with lots of different things,” Ciolli said of Lewis County Coffee.
Several of Ciolli’s students are currently putting together a 40-page report about the coffee shop to present at the next DECA conference in April.
In addition to presentations, DECA participants compete in tests on a variety of business skills, including marketing, finances and hospitality.
“This is my second year so I have a little more experience (with DECA), which is nice,” Ciolli said, later adding, “I feel like we’re ahead of the game on a few things this year.”
Students typically have to pay a fee to participate in DECA, but the coffee shop covers the expenses for all of Ciolli’s students.
“DECA is completely free because we do this,” Sturdevant said of the coffee shop.
Sturdevant is the vice president of marketing W.F. West’s DECA chapter. Mackenzie Bishop is the chapter’s vice president of hospitality, and senior Sophia Ruelas is the chapter president.
For more information on DECA, visit https://www.deca.org/.
To learn more about career and technical education at W.F. West, visit https://chehalisschools.org/cte/.