A student puts a lid on a coffee cup

Angelique Neema, a senior at Bowling Green High School, works at the Purple Brew. Photo courtesy the Bowling Green Independent school district.

Whether it’s a straight black coffee, vanilla latte or a caramel macchiato, Cayden Dunn, a sophomore at Bowling Green High School, can serve it up.

“It’s exhilarating and it has been a really fun experience,” he said.

Dunn is one of six students who work for The Purple Brew, a new coffee shop inside Bowling Green High School. The name, “The Purple Brew,” was voted on and selected by students in October as part of the high school’s Citizenship Day celebration. 

“My favorite thing would be manning the cash register and seeing everyone’s different orders and their personality in each order,” he said.

The Purple Brew is an extension of the Bowling Green Independent school district’s nutrition department. Dalla Emerson, the director of food service operations, said it’s an initiative that has been years in the making. She said she hopes this program will build work ethics with the students, leadership skills as well as build their knowledge and understanding of nutrition.

“Five years ago, we wanted to bring a coffee shop to the high school but then COVID happened,” said Emerson. “This year we got to open it up.”

Each student employee has completed the required school nutrition staff training and can work up to eight hours per week. Students get paid at the end of each month for the hours they worked. Dunn said he now has a better understanding of the nutrition program and why certain requirements are in place.

“We are learning a lot about nutrition,” said Dunn. “Before we did the training for this job, I didn’t understand why we did the things that we did. It’s the behind-the-scenes that not a lot of students get to see.”

The coffee and espresso equipment were selected by Bowling Green High School students last year during a trip to Smyrna, Tenn. Emerson said the equipment is designed to produce specialty drinks such as lattes, hot chocolate, macchiato, frappes and regular coffee. All drinks are sugar-free and offered hot or cold.

Emerson said the school collaborates with local businesses and suppliers to provide baked goods and fruit. She said if the students have a milk drink, a fruit and a pastry, their breakfast meets the requirements for a reimbursable breakfast as part of the district’s free breakfast program. Drinks purchased outside of the reimbursable meal are from $1.25 to $2.75.

“With the reimbursable breakfast, it doesn’t matter how they got to school or where they came from; if they are here, then it’s accessible to them,” Emerson explained.

Dunn said on top of nutritional knowledge, the coffee shop has given him opportunities outside of the classroom to interact and get to know his classmates better. As well as applying classroom knowledge in a real-world setting at school.

“It’s given me a beacon and access to students. I’ve learned a lot of new names,” he said.

The coffee shop is open on school days starting at 7:15 a.m. It closes during first period and reopens between the first and second periods.