BETHALTO — Jordyn Schillinger was all smiles when she left the new Corner Café at the Civic Memorial High School library on Tuesday morning.
The Civic Memorial senior bought her first plant.
“I didn’t know that we were able to buy plants,” said Schillinger, who got a cactus. “I’m happy that we can buy plants.”
Schillinger was one of the first customers at café, which opened for business at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
“I was really looking forward to it,” Schillinger said. “I thought it was a good idea and I was really excited to see how cute it looked. It looks really good.”
Students can not only purchase plants, they can buy coffee, cookies and candy. There are also tables where students can work on homework or talk to friends.
“I really liked the way they decorated it because school is sometimes really stressful,” sophomore Makenna Williams said. “I feel like it’s a good way to get out a little bit.”
After the first five minutes, about 10 students showed up at the café. After the first hour, that number grew to about 50.
“We’re looking forward to the library being more of a place where people want to come and hang out and settle themselves,” said teacher Allyson Morrison, the café’s coordinator.
Morrison and her paraprofessional, Joanna Connoyer, started making plans of having a coffee shop at the library in October.
“I run the STEP (Secondary Transition Experience) program, which is the WORK program here,” Morrison said. “For some students, it’s hard for them to find jobs. So we decided to create a job here where they can learn how to handle cash and get customer service experience and small skills.”
Morrison said the café got tremendous help from industrial arts teacher Jacob Sitze and the Madison County Mental Health board.
“Mr. Sitze made the tables for us,” Morrison said. “The Madison County Mental Health board gave us a $3,000 donation and a grant that we applied for to fund the project. Local people from the community such as the Saints Peter and Paul Church in Alton helped us out. A lot of people put their heart and soul in here, and it’s going to pay off. The staff and administrators have been nothing but supportive, so we are very blessed.”
Corner Café is open daily from 7:15 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. and noon to 2:20 p.m.
Connoyer said the café has been a great addition to the school.
“The students love it,” she said. “A lot of our seniors who have graduated last year said ‘why are you starting it when we leave?’ They were happy and they said they’re going to come back and see it, too.”
The café sells chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, brownie, sugar and M&M cookies. Students can purchase two cookies for $1.
“We have cookies that are healthy,” Morrison said. “They meet all of the standards. We have Ronnoco coffee, which is a local coffee company in St. Louis that we lease through.”
The café also has a greenhouse where students can purchase plants.
“My WORK students grow plants to sell to raise money for the program,” Morrison said. “So all of the money that we raise goes back into this program.”
Morrison said the café has 50 seats.
“We want to keep it at that because we don’t want it to become too crazy,” Morrison said. “But that will accommodate at least two classes. So two classes can be going on here at once.”
Senior Jada Salazar, one of 11 employees, said she’s happy she got the opportunity to work at the café on the first day.
“I like it,” Salazar said. “It gets me out of class. I don’t have to do homework, so it gets me out of that.”
A Southern Illinois University Edwardsville graduate, Morrison is in her fourth year as a teacher at CM.
“I got this job a month out of college,” Morrison said. “I took over the WORK program in my second year. Each year, I’ve grown it a little bit more, so I currently have 22 students in my WORK program. Some of them are in the community and about half of them are in the café, so it’s been great.”