W.F. West Students Trained as Baristas for New Business Venture With Lewis County Coffee


Educational options for career pathways have recently increased at W. F. West High School thanks to new business and marketing teacher Kristin Ciolli.

Students in Ciolli’s class have been abuzz with energy and excitement (and maybe a little caffeine) in preparation for the grand opening of The Crimson & Gray Powered by Lewis County Coffee, a new business venture that will eventually be managed and fully run by high school students.

“This kind of thing doesn’t just happen overnight,” said CTE Director and Assistant Principal Christine Voelker. “Ms. Ciolli began making connections with the owners of Lewis County Coffee right after she was hired last spring.” 

After some brainstorming with building administrators, Ciolli took the initiative and contacted Lewis County Coffee owners Samantha and Spike Magnuson and Angie Twining. 

“It was Kristin who got the ball rolling,” Voelker said.

Ciolli continues to keep that ball rolling, spending countless hours ensuring every detail is considered and taken care of before the grand opening on Wednesday, March 15.

While she is the driving force in bringing this project to fruition, Ciolli has the support and assistance of Business and Operations Specialist Gladis Mendez Mendoza. Together, they attend to health department requirements, work with contractors, respond to city and county inspectors and demonstrate for students the persistence required to get a business started. And the students are eager to assist.

W.F. West hasn’t had a business and marketing class for several years. However, with 43 students in Ciolli’s first semester class, it has become evident that student interest will keep the program alive and thriving. Other career and technical education (CTE) teachers are helping make the new CTE pathways successful.

In Donnie Bunker’s sign-making class, students have helped create and install professional signage for the coffee shop including a new logo designed by Alison Clinton. Students from Clinton’s photography class and Ciolli’s yearbook staff are busy taking pictures. Other CTE colleagues are helping Ciolli make connections with local businesses and spread the word on social media.

Thanks to student-run cookie sales during lunch, ingredients for the coffee shop are purchased, and business and marketing students are ready to formally serve customers beginning next week.

Business and Marketing

The Business and Marketing class provides students with a major emphasis on employability skills, economics, marketing and business concepts, creative sales and leadership development. Students will have the opportunity to take part in Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), which is an association of marketing students that encourages the development of business and leadership skills through academic conferences and competitions.

Recently, for the first time in years, Chehalis students competed in the state DECA competition. They participated in professional selling events and a role play competition. 

“As first year DECA students they did very well,” said Ciolli. “We hope that with more experience, our W. F. West students will be able to continue to compete at state & national conferences.”

Grand Opening

For now, students are simply eager to get the new coffee shop up and running. Beginning at 11 a.m. March 15, students and staff will have the chance to order traditional coffee drinks including four specialty drinks, named for the Chehalis community: The Bearcat, The Wildcat, The Cougar and The Bobcat.

Specialty drinks are flavored with huckleberry, peach, strawberry, mango and more. Some are topped with orange juice. In order to meet USDA standards for public schools, ingredients had to be modified, resulting in fewer calories per drink. For example, all syrups are sugar-free — tasty, but with reduced calories.

Thanks to Lewis County Coffee, the students are fully trained and ready to serve customers. All of W. F. West baristas have attended formal training on drink recipes and the service culture for which Lewis County Coffee is known. 

“We were attracted to the service culture this company created and wanted the same for our students,” said Voelker. “This training model, and the work culture they promote, is exactly what our Business and Marketing students needed.”

What’s more, the trainers and owners of Lewis County Coffee are former Bearcats. As W. F. West alumni, Samantha and Spike Magnuson and Angie Twining are giving back to their community. They have volunteered their time and expertise in designing the work space and giving students the work-based learning skills (like time management) needed in this kind of work.

“We look forward to eventually serving parents and community members as well,” said Ciolli. “We plan to be open for some evening community events, and hope to broaden our hours of operation as more student workers become involved and available.”

For now, The Crimson & Gray Powered by Lewis County Coffee is scheduled to open to an eager customer base inside W. F. West High School. 

To learn more about CTE at W. F. West High School, click here.