Fantastic 7 Café teaches students and staff

Hermosa Middle School students in multiple impairment class learn life skills at new weekly café that sells coffee and snacks for school staff

Hannah Grover
Alex Martinez pours coffee on Feb. 5 at Hermosa Middle School's Fantastic 7 Café in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — A new café has given seven Hermosa Middle School students another reason to look forward to Fridays.

Called Fantastic 7, the café offers a chance for the students, who all have special needs, to learn life skills, like customer service and handling money.

Members of the school's multiple impairment class have been running the café since January. Each week, the students serve coffee and snacks to school staff for two hours on Friday morning.

"They just get excited about it," said Courtney Reece, who teaches the multiple impairment class. "They're excited about Fridays."

The multiple impairment class is structured for students who need special accommodations to deal with more than one disability. The seven students in Hermosa's class have a range of physical and developmental abilities. Some students have severe autism and are nonvocal while others are outgoing.

Hermosa Middle School Principal Mark Harris gives a high five to Alex Martinez, left, and Cody Bedah, center, on Feb. 5 at the school's Fantastic 7 Café in Farmington.

During a recent café, Alex Martinez was one of the first students to greet customers and ask them what they would like to order.

Reece pointed to Martinez as a model for his classmates. She has high hopes for the 13-year-old and said she could see him enjoying a job that involves greeting customers.

"I'm thinking where are they going to be in their 20s," she said of her students.

Reece said she thinks many of her students will be able to earn a paycheck after they graduate from high school.

Martinez is already counting change for customers, though some other students have not yet reached that point.

"It may take a couple years," Reece said.

Both the café and the class are new to Hermosa Middle School. Principal Mark Harris said it has been at least six years since the middle school has offered a multiple impairment program.

"It's been really great how the staff and other students have interacted," he said as he visited the café on Feb. 5.

Harris, a regular at the café, takes time to talk to the students on Fridays. Some of the staff even sit down with students and play games or work on art activities.

"It's not just getting the coffee and doughnuts," Reece said. "It's about interacting."

Reece said staff occasionally are not sure how to interact with students in the multiple impairment classroom. She said the café has made it easier for staff to relate to many of those students.

Student barista Hannah Sandoval waits to help customers on Feb. 5 at Hermosa Middle School's Fantastic 7 Café in Farmington.

That's something substitute teacher Kailee James has also noticed.

James said students in the multiple impairment classroom are some of her favorites to teach, and she has heard a lot about the café from staff at Hermosa.

"A lot of people don't really know what (multiple impairment) is," she said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

A menu at Hermosa Middle School's Fantastic 7 Café in Farmington displays items and prices on Feb. 5.