Cup of Peace Café provides a pathway to future employment

Senior students at the Mater Dei School in Camden have embarked on a new endeavour in business and hospitality this year by opening the Cup of Peace Café – an enterprise they helped design, plan and bring to life as part of their school curriculum and pathway to future employment.

The café is located in the school’s hospitality suite and it’s already proving a hit with both students and staff.

Mater Dei is situated in Camden on Sydney’s southern outskirts and is a member of Good Samaritan Education.

It consists of the Mater Dei School, a K-12 school for students with intellectual disability; NextPath Continuous Learning, a post-school program for young adults which empowers and supports them to achieve personal and career goals; NextPath Assessment and Therapy, which provides allied health services, including occupational therapy, speech therapy and physiotherapy; and Mater Dei Early Childhood Education which offers pre-school for children with and without any level of additional needs, as well as playgroups and early intervention programs.

Image: Mater Dei School, Camden.

Nicole Robinson, Stage 6 Leader and Leader of Curriculum for Years 7-12, said the idea for the Café came from the students themselves in the Year 11 Design and Technology unit and the Working Community unit for Year 12.

“We started the design process in Term One this year, looking at the question of identifying something in the school that we could change or improve,” she said.

“In those discussions, we realised that the school didn’t have a café and that was something that we could work on.”

The unit involved the students learning about the principles of Design and Technology while exploring the process of building their own café.

“The students have been engaging in a range of activities, including research, design, and construction, as they explored the features of different café designs, identified suitable materials, technologies and techniques for their café, and evaluated the suitability of their design for a range of applications,” Nicole said.

Image: Mater Dei School, Camden.

“They’re also required to consider the relationship between design, technology, the individual, society, and the environment.”

In practice, this meant the students came up with everything from the name of the café to setting up of the space, the menu, and the making and serving of the food and beverages.

“We started by deciding on a name and a logo,” Nicole said. “We wanted a name that suits the environment we are in and that ties in with the ethos of the Mater Dei community. We came up with the Cup of Peace Café, which tied in all those things and created a sense of welcome and hospitality.

“We moved on to designing the actual space and the theme. We went with a kind of old-fashioned, vintage theme.

“Then it was on to designing the menu, taking into account the audience we’re targeting, which at the outset, was really staff and students, and also learning how to order the food, the quantities needed and those kinds of planning skills.”

Image: Mater Dei School, Camden.

From there, the students completed a barista course to ensure their coffee-making was retail quality before the doors opened.

“Once we had launched our café, we opened it up for staff, students and, hopefully, families to enjoy,” Nicole said.

The whole enterprise is designed not only to meet the school curriculum requirements, but to help equip students with workplace skills for the future.

“The students have gained many skills working in their café,” Nicole said. “Many students became more confident once they completed their barista course and some of the students are using this workspace as their Work Placement opportunity.”

This sits alongside other Work Placement opportunities in the wider community with local employers, including Woolworths.

In recent weeks, the students have been hard at work designing a Summer Menu, featuring seasonal additions such as smoothies.

Image: Mater Dei School, Camden.

Nicole said future plans included opening up the café even more as a relaxing space for families and community members to enjoy.

“We are hoping to continue this great space, although eventually we are hoping to invest in a café onsite that can also be used for a training facility,” she said.

“It’s been a really amazing experience, and the students have enjoyed it and continue to enjoy it. They’re proud of what they’ve achieved, and the fact that they designed it all from the beginning and have made it into this great space for everyone’s enjoyment.”