“We can’t keep up with demand,” says North Island Secondary School teacher Doug Abbot, standing beside a bag of raw, pale green coffee beans and a glass, slim-necked vacuum brewer that looks like it belongs in a science lab.
Abbott oversees a unique program borne out of a casual conversation. Abbot was making coffee earlier this year when a grade 10 student in the independent learning program, Jordan Campbell, mentioned that he too enjoyed coffee and asked if he could produce some.
Abbot said yes, and the 1-eleven Roasting business, named by Campbell after his homeroom, was born.
A roaster was constructed from scratch, and Campbell designed a business plan. Abbot explains that Campbell and the other students helping are learning a whole range of skills from the coffee roasting business, including planning, budgeting, marketing, and managing finances. While just Campbell is getting credit for the program this year, about six other students are involved, and seven will be enrolled in the class next year. Campbell won the Entrepreneur Award at the NISS Awards Day in June.
A general criticism of high schools can be that they do not prepare students for the demands and rigours of the real world; this coffee roasting program easily counters that sentiment by providing the rare experience for teenagers to be involved in running a real business. The experience contains the risks, consequences and rewards not found in hypothetical business plans.
Abbot recalls a day when the students were roasting about 70 pounds of beans ($490 of finished product), and he was unavailable to supervise. He could not help but worry about the expense if something went wrong in the roasting process. When he returned at the end of the day, he found batch after batch of perfectly, consistently-roasted beans, showing the responsibility and care the students treat their business with.
The beans are sold in multiple Port McNeill stores. Money from the sales goes back into the business, and even helps support other interests in the NISS community. When the girls soccer team qualified for a championship in Surrey, 250 bags of coffee were sold to help fund their trip.
Responsible sourcing is also integral, with Abbot obtaining beans from Vancouver, all ethically sourced and from origins including Guatemala, Peru and Ethiopia.
The students are also learning barista skills, something Campbell put to use at the June 13 NISS graduation when he ran an espresso bar.
“He was making all the parents and teachers happy with his lattes and espressos,” says Abbot.