Local students with cognitive delays launch ‘RISE Above Grounds’ coffee business

COLORADO SPRINGS — A group of Skyview Middle School students are cashing in on their teachers’ coffee addictions all while learning important life skills.

RISE Above Grounds was born out of Special Education teacher Shauna Anderson’s desire to develop a program that would enhance the education of her 23 students with cognitive delays.

“Getting students to be more independent and learn the skills they need to go out into the workplace and be successful adults,” Anderson explained.




Throughout the week, students gather orders from teachers and staff members. Customers order beverages like coffee, tea, and hot chocolate as well as food items like granola bars. Then, on Friday morning, Skyview students transform into professional baristas.

“I assign everybody different jobs,” Anderson explained. “We rotate the jobs so they’re learning all the different skills.”

Students begin by making labels for the drink order, which sharpens their reading and writing skills. Next, the beverage is poured, flavors are added, and additional orders, like snacks, are added to the cart. Students then take the orders to their customers, which strengthens their social skills. Finally, the students count their earnings, marking an opportunity to practice their math skills.

Although RISE is meant to challenge Anderson’s students, Skyview Middle School has seen the business impact others groups, too.

“I think the other students are learning our students really are your peers and are capable of doing what you’re doing,” Anderson said. “The RISE students show everybody that we’re capable of so much and if people treat us like we’re a peer and everybody else, they can show what they know.”

“We don’t say disability, we say different ability!”

RISE Above Grounds

While RISE students make waves in the school, their newfound confidence is also being felt at home by their parents and guardians.

Skyview Middle School student delivers orders to customers

“A lot of them [parents] have been coming to me in tears,” Anderson told FOX21. “They say this is the first year my son or daughter has loved going to school.”

RISE’s impact doesn’t stop there. Anderson says schools around Colorado Springs are considering creating similar programs for their students with cognitive delays.

“A student’s label should never define who they are. They are capable of changing the world.”

Shauna Anderson

“I heard this morning an elementary school is starting to do it. I think that would be great for all students to have that opportunity to learn the skills and then get out in life and have that sense of pride.”

It’s important to note RISE Above Grounds operates entirely on donations. None of the beverages nor snacks cost customers a dime. However, donations are what fund operating costs such as cups, coffee, creamer, flavors, and snacks.

RISE Above Grounds baristas put the final touches on a customer’s order

“Any of that is greatly appreciated,” Anderson said. “I know one company bought our students a 45-cup coffee maker for them to use and the students were so excited about that. Any donations are greatly appreciated.”

In addition to donations, cooking advice is also welcome as Anderson hopes to partner with parents who can provide cooking activities for students.

If you are interested in donating or want to learn more about the program, contact Shauna Anderson at [email protected].


Christin Hakim

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