Serving up Smiles and Snacks at Millmont Elementary School
At Millmont Elementary School, students in the Autistic support program have the opportunity to develop skills in a creative way. Puzzle Piece Cafe was created in 2021 to help students grow and develop their cognitive skills. The idea came from “Bitty and Beau’s Coffee,” a coffee shop founded by the parents of children with intellectual disabilities.
The Puzzle Piece Cafe is a snack cart managed by students in the school’s Autistic support classrooms. Twice a month, Millmont Elementary School staff can purchase snacks such as yogurt parfaits, trail mix, pretzels, ice tea, cookies, and other seasonal treats. Most of the snacks on the cart are not only sold by the students but prepared by them as well. The teachers who oversee the program and Principal April Halligan-Rostek purchase the supplies for the cart, snacks, and ingredients.
Tim Shapiro, a former Millmont Elementary School student, designed the logo for the Puzzle Piece Cafe which can be seen on the cart’s sign and aprons worn by student “employees.” Tim is now a student at Central Middle School.
The students who operate the snack cart learn skills such as money management, interpersonal skills, and communication skills. There are currently 46 students involved with the program. Each of the four Autistic Support classes take turns running the snack cart with a different class managing it each month. The students take the cart around to each classroom with the help of paraprofessionals. The money collected from the snack cart goes back into the program with the goal of making it self-sustaining.
“The students love it. You can see how much they enjoy it by the smile on their faces,” said Gina Walters, Autistic Support Teacher..
In addition to Autistic Support teachers, the school’s program coordinator, Stacy Hensely, has been an integral part of the Puzzle Piece Cafe. Mrs. Walters also made it a point to mention Judy Kopil, an Autistic Support Teacher who died last year. She was an important part of the team and the program will be dedicating something on the snack cart in her honor.
If you would like to donate supplies to support the Puzzle Piece Cafe, please reach out to Principal April Halligan-Rostek at Millmont Elementary School at firstname.lastname@example.org.