Angelena Correa-Delacruz said her signature drink is a raspberry latte, sometimes with added caramel.
However, five weeks ago, she didn’t even know there were different types of beans for making coffee.
The 18-year-old is among three teens who took part in a barista-training pilot program at Bridgeview, one of the nonprofit arms of Vancouver Housing Authority. Espresso Elegance, an espresso catering company, taught them how to make coffee and espresso drinks. Paper Tiger Coffee Roasters donated the coffee and gave a tour of its roasting operation, and AmeriCorps member Morgan Atwood provided job training.
“They get so excited when they pull a (espresso) shot correctly,” Atwood said. “Just watching that confidence grow is really great.”
Atwood taught them how to handle cash, resolve conflict, be professional and communicate in a workplace. She said the Nonprofit Network provided a grant to go toward the purchase of a coffee cart, which is stationed at the Bridgeview Education and Employment Resource Center, 505 Omaha Way in Vancouver.
Staff have been trying to figure out opportunities for youth within Bridgeview located in the middle of the Skyline Crest community and next door to a Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington clubhouse. Learning to sling free coffee for people visiting the resource center seemed like a way to combat summer doldrums and provide job experience, particularly for low-income and at-risk youth.
The hope is that residents at soon-to-open Caples Terrace, across the street, may take part in the program if it’s repeated later this summer. The 28-unit apartment complex is tailored toward homeless youth and youth aging out of foster care. Residents begin moving in at the end of this month. Correa-Delacruz and Autumn Hardy were testing out their newfound coffee-making skills at Caples Terrace’s open house Thursday afternoon.
Correa-Delacruz lives in Skyline Crest and heard about the barista program through a mailer. She already has a part-time job in retail and said the training helped her learn something new and build her customer service skills.
“It’s a lot of good experience and knowledge,” she said.
Autumn Hardy, 15, a student at Vancouver iTech Preparatory, heard about the program from her mom, who works at the housing authority.
“I wanted more work experience and training so I could get a job easier,” Hardy said.
Besides learning to make coffee, she said, she learned how to handle difficult clients, put together a resume and be interviewed. She’d like to get her first paid job this summer and is eyeing Starbucks due to its employee benefits.
The youth weren’t paid for their experience but received gift cards and food-handlers cards.
Mike Unverzagt, who runs the Portland branch of Espresso Elegance, said the company believes in doing things for the community. He said he enjoyed teaching the youth the art and science of making a great cup of coffee.
“They could go into any coffee shop and make any beautiful drink,” he said.
Atwood said Vancouver Housing Authority may repeat the program in August.