Over the past few years our relationship with Wake Technical Community College has grown to new heights. Wake Tech is North Carolina’s largest community college, serving over 74,000 adults annually, with six campuses, three training centers, multiple community sites, and a comprehensive array of online learning options. As you can imagine, that is a lot of impact happening right here in Raleigh. This year we were honored to open up our space to the newly developed Barista Program led by Jai Page, educator and top level espresso king. This blog post shares all about the creation of the project and what they have planned next! 


Why The Program is Unique

It is not everyday that you find community hosted barista classes, especially in the middle of your office space. Every Tuesday our community is able to taste test and learn about the progress the students are making over the 6 week program. The best part is that this program is more than a cup of coffee, it is part of the journey to helping the students find skill-based jobs after graduation. The Barista program is part of the Pathfinder Career Exploration Program. 


“The program is designed for adults with disabilities and for those who struggle academically and want to further their education and prepare for the workplace.” -Jai 


 The Mission of the Program?

In our interview with Jai we wanted to discover a deeper understanding of what the program means for adults with disabilities and for those who may struggle academically. Deeper than the skills they develop this program is able to also teach them about entrepreneurship and adventures of co-working! 


“The mission of the barista course is to teach students the basics to being a barista by teaching them how to prepare and serve espresso coffee. Upon completion of the course each student will have learned the history of coffee from how it began to how it came to the Americas. They will have an understanding of the difference between the two types of coffee and they will be familiar with coffee terminology. Students will learn the top coffee growing regions, the cultivation, and the art of  hand picking coffee cherries. They will also learn the correct procedures when working with an espresso machine and safety procedures when actually working in a coffee shop. I also work with Mrs. Joy Bowman and she is in charge of teaching students hospitality in the workplace. The students learn how to be hospitable and comfortable working with co-workers and guests in a workplace environment which are life long career building skills. Joy is a joy to work with.” -Jai


Making an impact

This amazing program could not have been accomplished without the dedication of the instructors. Jai and Mrs. Bowman showed our community respect and hospitality, while teaching the students to do the same. At the end of the course the group put on a final group presentation and showcased the impressive skills they now possessed. It was an amazing opportunity for our [email protected] members to gather with local supporters. Overall, the students never failed to encourage us to approach challenges with a smile. A little bit more about the team is below!


“I manage a local coffee franchise named Gloria Jeans Coffees owned by a dear friend, Sejal Bellamy. The opportunity presented itself for me to instruct this course in the spring of 2019. I feel I am making an impact because I am able to be a part of a program where I am able to teach students with disabilities whether its physical or cognitive, a skill that they are able to take with them as they head into the workforce. I’ve had some students who have opened their own coffee shops and some who have gone to work at local shops upon completion of the course. Mrs. Bowman prepares them to be hospitable and comfortable when working with the public as well as on the job site. Mrs. Bowman takes the class each semester on a trip to a local coffee shop so students are able to shadow work. They also participate in role playing activities and skill games to better prepare them for the work force. Beyond teaching barista and hospitality skills, we enjoy the gift of being able to help people become better people and that’s what its all about. Seeing the smiling faces of the students is all the gratification I need.” -Jai

What Role is HQ Playing in the Success of the Program

“HQ Raleigh has helped so much into making this possible by allowing us to use their downtown location, classroom space and equipment to be able to teach this course.  We are very appreciative of the kindness HQ Raleigh has shown Wake Tech, the instructors, and students. Mrs. Bowman and I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to be able to teach and we enjoy meeting and preparing drinks for the staff and guests of HQ Raleigh.” -Jai


And just as much as HQ Raleigh has contributed to the program, we are appreciative of everything the program brings to us. “I think we are getting the better end of the deal,” says Jess Porta, Director of HQ Raleigh, “We come in every Tuesday with fresh coffee, smiling faces, and a chance to give back. What more could we ask for?”


Jai’s Takeaways from this Fall’s Experience?

“From teaching this course,  I have had the opportunity to meet so many fun, intelligent, motivated groups of students and I’ve had a chance to build long lasting friendships with faculty and staff. Teaching at HQ Raleigh has given me the opportunity to meet so many talented and motivated entrepreneurs and business owners and motivated individuals focused on making today a better tomorrow. I give special thanks to everyone who has come together to make this experience possible and I always look forward to being a part of helping people become better individuals in whatever capacity.” -Jai 

Also, if you are interested in working alongside powerful entrepreneurs we would love for you to come tour with us. We have available office suites at any of our four Raleigh locations, along with open co-working space. So do not hesitate and book a tour today!