Brew Crew thrives despite pandemic

Cafe gives transitional students experience and staff, students needed energy boost



Sophomore Alexia Green (left) grabs a hot chocolate between classes from Brew Crew student worker, Ximena Mejia (right)

The New Trier Brew Crew, created for transitional students, has expanded over the last year and continues to grow throughout the continuation of the pandemic.

The Brew Crew was created in 2020 amid the pandemic to give students with physical or mental disabilities educational opportunities.

Typically, they are given outside-of-school jobs to gain experience working in retail or food services for their post high school life; however, due to COVID, there are fewer extracurricular job opportunities for these students.

Starting as a cart, Brew Crew gave students common experiences that they would need for future jobs, such as walking the cart to faculty areas to offer free coffee to workers. As the pandemic continued and students still needed education opportunities, the Brew Crew has continued to expand. For example, the Brew Crew settled to a more permanent space with the help of architecture classes who have created an official booth for them. Annie Kirschbaum, a transitional service teacher, reported they received around twenty-five students a day.

They have also begun to expand their menu. In 2020, they only offered coffee; however, their menu expanded to include tea, hot chocolate and cookies. The cookies

are baked by Do Good Cookies, an organization started by a New Trier transitional program alumni.

Kirschbaum said the Brew Crew trained students in different skills such as “taking an order, [then] going and making the coffee… We talked about sanitation like there are so many things that go into that. And then the whole second piece of it is about handling money.”

At the moment, all proceeds go to supply costs for keeping the stand open, yet Kari Nakayama, another transitional program teacher, hopes that they will be able to use some of the money towards enrichment programs in the future. “I think we would just use the money to have students go on community [field trips]. So we try to make monthly field trips, things like that to get students more involved in the community.”

Though COVID has been difficult for the world as a whole, students within special education departments were hit remarkably hard. With the onset of the pandemic, job opportunities and in-person experiences suddenly stopped. As reported by a Chalkbeat article, many students have phased out of their time in transition services. However, they have not had the same experiences they would receive under normal circumstances.

Sean Clemenz, Special Ed Department Chair, said that this was possible because of the hard work of the New Trier staff.

“Teachers have done a phenomenal job of doing things like the Brew Crew so that while there have been disruptions, they’ve kept the same amazing services in place by getting creative,” Clemenz said.