Students with disabilities learn to roast coffee at Boise High, in preparation for real world jobs

Posted at 10:16 PM, Nov 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-22 00:16:26-05

BOISE, Idaho — A program at Boise High School is helping students with intellectual disabilities prepare for real world jobs by teaching them to roast coffee beans.

The program was started and is funded by local non-profit The Percolator Fund, and together, they’re aiming to lower the unemployment rate of people with disabilities here in the Treasure Valley.

“Eighty-percent of people with disabilities, particularly with intellectual and developmental disabilities, end up unemployed once they reach the age of 21,” said Suzanne McIntosh, President of The Percolator Fund.

With that statistic in mind, and her own daughter Jenny as inspiration, Suzanne launched The Percolator Fund.

“When my third child was born with Down syndrome, I had expectations that she would have a full life,” said McIntosh.

And holding a job was part of that expectation, but when Suzanne got looking, most of the jobs available to people with disabilities were workshop jobs.

“I realized that we were missing out on some of the special gifts and special strengths in this group of people,” said McIntosh.

So with the help of Furnace Hills Coffee, an East Coast company that prides themselves on “special coffee roasted by special people,” The Percolator Fund was born, right here in Boise.

“We know that people with disabilities, if you give them the tools and training they need, they can succeed,” said McIntosh.

In this case, the tools needed are coffee machines and coffee beans, and the training is taught by extended resource teachers and peer mentors at Boise High School.

“This gives them a very specific skill, where they could go to a business and say ‘I do know how to roast, I know how to package beans, I know about beans',” said Natalie Lutes, Special Education Teacher at Boise High School.

The students in the program have big goals of working in the coffee business.

“Working over at Bikes and Coffee, would be something that would be useful because I’d be able to fix up people’s bikes and if I’m not fixing up bikes, I’m roasting up coffee,” said Eric Jones, a student in the program at Boise High.

But the skills taught by the teachers and peer mentors in this program can take them lots of other places too.

“We work with a lot of problem-solving, which I think is very important to have in any kind of a job.”

If you want to purchase coffee beans from the Boise Brave Friend Blend, you can head to their Facebook Page and send them a message.

For more information on The Percolator Fund, click here.