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Tiger Den Cafe opens in school library
E-Tiger Den Cafe pic
Community Based Instruction students Cody Rider, Paige Simmons, Reyna Silva and Will Dinsmore roll around a coffee cart offering Dawson County High School students and staff members coffee two days before the Tiger Caf opened. - photo by Amy French Dawson County News

With a new school year comes a new program, Community Based Instruction.

Teacher Ashley Elliott introduced the program to Dawson County when she moved here over the summer from Fulton County.

The program is designed for exceptional children who are students at Dawson County High School.

"Basically before this program came about everything was academic, the kids never left the classroom. I think they maybe left once or twice a month for community training. So this program is basically from 9 a.m. through 12p.m. It's community-based construction," Elliott said.

What they do is go out for job training on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Their jobs include working at the Dollar Tree, the Dawson County Tavern, the Hall of Fame, and Shear Experience. We are currently looking for more local businesses that want volunteers."

For the students who weren't prepared to work outside of the classroom, the program came up with a class project.

After a week of discussion, the students decided they wanted to open up a coffee shop.

With a starting budget of $300, the Community Based Instruction department went to work.

"For two weeks we all prepared to open up the Tiger Den Café. We all sat down and made shopping lists, what the children would need to start up this café. We did daily exercises with budget, comparing name brand versus store brand and even where we were going to buy the supplies needed," Elliott said.

Three days before the shop opened, the whole CBI department took a shopping trip to Walmart.
"In each trip we have a goal. One Friday some students had to find where the item was, and how much it cost. The higher level students were to find the items that were generic and again in name brand, to compare to the two and see which one was the better buy," said Edith Banta, department head.

What had started as an idea became a reality for these students when the Tiger Den Cafe opened on Sept. 7.

The environment helps the students practice everyday life skills while having fun.

For $1 DCHS students and teachers can purchase four muffins, all ranging in flavor from strawberry cheesecake to double chocolate chip.

Coffee is also $1 with a wide variety of flavors and creamers available.

"In the future we are hoping to expand their in-school jobs. Hopefully, we will be selling popcorn to students at lunch and this upcoming week we are even creating a car wash for the school staff," Elliott said. "These children have really worked hard in this program. We couldn't have done it without our awesome administrators, para educators, parents or businesses. I even had some of my previous co-workers come up here from Fulton and help establish the program at the high school."

From coffee to muffins, the students at Dawson County High School can't resist.

"I love the school coffee shop. It's where my friends and I go every morning. Not many people would expect to find me there since it's in the library, but I love it," freshman Denver Arnold said.

The Tiger Den Cafe has raised more than $100, all of which will be going to improve the CBI department.

"I think it's really cute because the proceeds go to the exceptional children. It's a really clever idea and it gives a chance to interact with them and get to know them. Until this year, I rarely saw them outside of the classrooms. It's so sweet, they're all so kind and the coffee is delicious. I had no idea there would be so many different flavors and creamers, and who could beat one dollar coffee?" sophomore Emily Bouchez said.

"We realize just how blessed we are to be a part of a team of such stellar teachers. The goal of this program is that every student can know they are a truly vital part of the community and school," said Silvie Lundy, community based teacher.