Students at St. John Brebeuf Secondary in Abbotsford, B.C., get caffeine, community and class credit at The Daily Grind, a school coffee shop they’re running themselves. Photo by Nicholas Elbers

Students look forward to The Daily Grind

By  Nicholas Elbers, Canadian Catholic News
  • June 22, 2022

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. -- Every good coffee shop needs three key ingredients: good coffee, good ambience and good community. St. John Brebeuf Secondary’s new cafe, The Daily Grind, has all three.

The Abbotsford school’s coffee shop has been a sought-after place for students to build community. Through the integration of different departments the cafe has also given students who do well in unorthodox educational environments a place to not just belong, but thrive. The cafe also makes a pretty good latte.

At the core of The Daily Grind’s mission is the motto “people before profit,” and supervising teacher Anne Fronteddu said the school wanted a space students could take ownership of and make their own.

The cafe is located in the former high school library, which was closed so SJB could better organize its learning resources to suit modern education trends. Unfortunately, it not only lost a library but also a place for meetings and other group activities. 

Fronteddu’s hope was that The Daily Grind would fill that gap by being a beautiful, flexible space for the school community. It seems to be paying off.

Students took the lead in building the cafe, and with a little leadership from teachers a core team of a dozen student volunteers stepped up to take on the lion’s share of responsibility.

Students are responsible for the regular operation of the cafe, including running the cash register, making sure items are stocked and of course, making coffee.

The Daily Grind was created as a hands-on learning space for students and will be fully integrated into the Marketing and Entrepreneurship Department and students will earn course credit for working in the cafe.

The Daily Grind is more than just a coffee shop. When Fronteddu was asked to create a life skills program last year, she was happy to integrate it with the day-to-day operations of The Daily Grind. It has now become a welcoming space for students who feel less comfortable with the general flow of high school life.

Learning resource department head Susan Sousa has seen the cafe do wonders for some students. The growth they have exhibited through their responsibilities has been considerable.

“I like to compare it to a flat-footed leap across the Fraser River,” Sousa said. “I have students who would usually go about their days with a learning aide now delivering coffee to teachers all by themselves.” 

Students who are usually reluctant to start conversations outside their circle of friends are now working at the cash register and chatting with students and teachers, said Sousa.

Not only does the The Daily Grind provide a place for all students, including those who might sometimes feel out of place in regular academic settings, it offers a non-academic setting for student success.

Theo Surdu is an example. He is in charge of much of the cafe marketing and also helped develop a successful Drink of the Month program.

By all metrics, The Daily Grind has been a success. It’s so popular with both students and staff that since opening on Valentine’s Day it has repaid the school’s initial $20,000 investment. An impressive feat considering it’s open only 40 minutes a day. Profits are now being cycled back to the cafe so students can further develop The Daily Grind.

The Daily Grind has also become home to new student activities like a recent chess tournament organized by Fronteddu and students when she noticed several students were spending their lunches playing chess in the cafe. The art department plans to use the cafe as a flexible gallery space to showcase student artwork.

Future plans include expanding to double the floor space by removing a false wall. The hope, said Fronteddu, is for more groups and organizations to use the cafe, including Catholic organizations that could rent the space after hours.

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