Written by Beth Miller. Photography by Wes Battoclette. As Featured in Fall issue of Venue MagazineStudents and faculty of Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (CHCA) have taken the expression "wake up and smell the coffee" to heart. What began two years ago as a mobile coffee cart has blossomed into a permanent, full-service coffee bar staffed by nearly 30 students.
The Leaning Eagle Coffee Bar is positioned directly inside of the CHCA Martha S. Lindner Upper School Campus, greeting everyone with the pleasant din and aroma of freshly brewed coffee beverages and assorted refreshments. The Leaning Eagle serves as more than an added convenience for anyone attending, working or visiting upper school — it's also a hands-on opportunity for students to learn business and entrepreneurial skills.
"We've created a business class with nine students receiving class credit," says Stephen Carter, upper school teacher and advisor of the program. "What's unique is that this class functions as an internship where students interact with customers, work with a budget and profit margins and apply their business skills." Carter explains how he asked Principal Dr. Dean Nicholas for a permanent bar area instead of the coffee cart. The school supplied them with an interest-free loan, renovations took place and The Leaning Eagle officially opened on September 1, 2015.
"Now the students are figuring out how to pay off a three-year loan in what might take only eight months. We're all excited by how successful it's already been," says Carter.
The nine students in the class are managers and each is in charge of up to three employees. The Leaning Eagle employees earn service hours in lieu of wages and students were selected via an interview and selection process. Emma Parker, a senior at CHCA, is the lead manager of The Leaning Eagle. "I want to go into marketing and business in college, so I appreciate this opportunity to learn leadership and entrepreneurship," says Parker. Each day is started with Parker checking in at 7:30 a.m. to make sure everything is in order. She explains how she checks in with employees at each bell, and typically works the busy lunch shift.
Aside from making sure operations are running smoothly, Parker cares about crafting the perfect coffee for her peers. "A lot of my friends are used to drinking Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts blended coffee drinks, and I encourage them to try a cappuccino, a cortado or a shot of espresso," says Parker. "We push the importance of quality coffee, not just the sugary flavors."
Deeper Roots Coffee in Oakley provides the quality product served at The Leaning Eagle. Ethically sourced beans are collected directly from small coffee farmers. "Deeper Roots provides us with a rotating menu so we always have new coffees from new regions," says Carter. "Right now we have a couple from Guatemala and one from Ethiopia. We educate students about from where the coffee is sourced and the flavor profiles of each region." Carter received his barista training from Deeper Roots; he then trained the managers, who in turn trained their employees.
In addition to fueling students and faculty through schooldays and studying for exams, The Leaning Eagle Coffee Bar also serves their delicious drinks at school functions such as sporting events and parent-teacher nights. "Football games are popular for us," says Parker. "We have something for everyone: iced coffee, hot chocolate and Italian sodas."
A greater sense of community and school spirit is crafted along with the coffee. Parker manages the coffee bar's social media pages, Including their Twitter account (@CHCACoffee) and newly established Facebook page. Social media is utilized to keep students in- formed about new menu items — they've recently added a seasonal pumpkin spice latte — or to offer promotions like hashtag contests to win a free beverage.
The Leaning Eagle Coffee Bar has become a resounding success and the team has some big plans percolating for the future. They've recently implemented coffee subscriptions for parents driving their students to the upper school. For $30 a month a parent can drop off their child, present their coffee card and receive coffee with a ready-to- go bag containing cream, sugar and other essentials.
Online ordering and delivery service is another plan quickly coming to fruition. "One of our students is savvy with technology and we've developed a platform where students can go online, order a drink and pick it up whenever they're ready," says Carter. "Eventually a student will be able to order and have it delivered to wherever they're located on campus."
Students enrolled in the business class are each required to present a final project proposal for another small business that could begin at CHCA. "We plan to take the best idea and secure the funding for that venture," says Carter. "Eventually it'll become a larger entrepreneurial program with a number of small businesses run by students at the school who receive hands-on training and business experience."
The success of The Leaning Eagle Coffee Bar directly benefits students through the CHCA Intercession Scholarship Fund. Intercession is CHCA's unique annual experiential learning opportunity that allows students to ignite their passions in real world settings. Students are able to explore a personal interest, participate in an internship, experience cultural immersion, or serve on a mission trip.
Experiences come in a wide variety and different price points. "We have several opportunities that may be outside of a family's price point," says Carter. "The scholarship will enable those students to be able to experience something they may not have otherwise."
We would like to recognize the hard work of the following student leaders of the Leaning Eagle, who pour in a lot of time and energy into making it a successful venture: Emma Parker, Zach Gunlock, Emma Conway, Jeremy Devin, Connor Sheehy, Shayla Watson, Dominic Rottman, Gretchen Weisbrodt, Drew Beverly, and Kennedi Toney.