Among the abundance coffee shops in Des Moines, each one has something that sets it apart from the rest. Plymouth Grounds is no exception. In this Des Moines coffee shop they are brewing up more than just coffee. They are brewing opportunity and job experience. The shop is run by students from Ruby Van Meter, a school for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
“The goal is to teach employability skills, so it is a springboard to paid employment,“ said Melinda Collins, Ruby Van Meter Transition Coordinator. The student baristas are all part of the transition program. They have all met their high school requirement and working towards competitive paid employment.
The students learn valuable skills that help make them employable. They learn responsibility as they clean and bake. They work on speed and accuracy when taking orders. They also put their math skills to use while measuring ingredients, using the cash register, and making change. “It is neat to see all the academics that they have learned in school over the years be applied in a work setting,” said Collins.
Of course, they master the art of coffee making as well.
One of the main goals of the program is to teach to advance the student’s social skills. “It’s those invaluable social skills that so difficult to teach in a school setting,” said Collins. They are interacting with people in a retail setting, which is something that a teacher in a classroom cannot teach. “I say thank you and come back again and stuff when they leave,” said Amanda Faux, one of Plymouth Grounds
The restaurant is a non-profit. All of the proceeds they make are put back into the store to my more supplies. The students that work during the school year do not get paid because they are working for a class. However the shop is still open in the summer and is run by former students who have graduated. These students get paid.
Plymouth Grounds has many loyal customers that come into the shop. “We get amazing tips. People really support us. Our customers love why we are here,” said Collins. At the end of the school year all of the student employees, volunteers, and teachers use the tip money to enjoy a nice dinner together.
Of the past Plymouth Grounds employees, 90 percent are now competitively employed. “We have high expectations and hope that they develop as many skills as they can,” said Collins. Those high expectations are what helps the students learn and excel. Students such as Amanda Faux are very proud of their employment opportunities.
The shop is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again Wednesday 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Plymouth Grounds is located at the intersection of 42nd and Ingersoll, in the corner of the Plymouth Church.