How Ponderosa High School is Modeling Innovation - One Latte at a Time

When we think about innovation in education our minds often conjure up images of app development or virtual reality helmets. However, Allison Fabrizio, a 3rd-year teacher who works with students with severe needs at Ponderosa High School, took a different approach. Through creating a real-world experience for her students, she has brought to life an exceptional example of experiential learning.

Outlined in the Vision 2030 framework, experiential learning is one component to help students develop the core competencies that will allow them to thrive in an uncertain world. Fabrizio beams when she talks about how much her students have grown, “The most surprising thing is how much growth I’ve seen in my kids in such a short amount of time. I’ve seen the kids who are normally soft-spoken speak up. I’ve seen kids who are hesitant with money confidently give back change. I’ve seen connections between students that my students wouldn’t normally talk to happening, which is really cool.”

The idea took form in an application for The Excellence Awards. Receiving funds as a finalist and utilizing a long-forgotten space inside the cafeteria, Fabrizio opened “The Stable” with her students in January 2019. Dr. Thomas S. Tucker, Douglas County School District Superintendent, made an appearance for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The coffee shop also extends beyond the school. 30% of the proceeds are donated to a select charity every month. The vision for a modest coffee shop has blossomed into a living representation of Ponderosa’s warm school culture. “I’ve always wanted to give something that was a real-life skill, so having a great team, a great group of students, and supporting staff in the building has really helped make it come true.”

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