Grab a cup of Jo-2-Go
Student-run cafe offers special-needs students work experience

By Ashley Haynes - Freeman Staff

Sept. 26, 2017

Jo-2-Go is a cafe run by special-education students from a classroom at Mukwonago High School.
Submitted photo

MUKWONAGO - Americans love their daily coffee. That's the motivation behind Mukwonago High School's student-run cafe, Jo-2-Go. The business is run in a classroom by special education students under the leadership of teacher Heather Kane-Terhorst. She started Jo-2-Go as a way to raise funds for a district vehicle that would be accessible to the special-needs students. Now,  Jo-2-Go is entering its ninth year.

"I was told that if you wanted a van, you needed to make some money to get it," said Kane-Terhorst. "We needed to sell something consumable and everyone needs their coffee."

In its first year, Jo-2-Go was run by students in a classroom with three small coffee makers. They sold 15 hot drinks and 20 cups of coffee and were optimistic about the reception by other students, staff and community. The business has now expanded to the point that coffee drinkers can order bulk orders ahead of time. Over 200 beverages in both the small and large sizes are sold during the three-hour weekly period Jo-2-Go is open. That doesn't include other iced beverages and food items, which sell just as rapidly.

"Jo-2-Go is big now," said Kane-Terhorst. "We need to be very careful to make sure we're not violating fire code when people come into my classroom and line up in the hallway."

Soon, Jo-2-Go may be moved into an updated space due to the school districtís ongoing renovations. Within the district, voters approved a $49.5 million plan to make improvements at the high school, including an expanded cafeteria and new auditorium, along with a non-recurring $350,000 annual operating referendum. The focus of the projects is on portions of Mukwona go High School that havenít been updated since it was built in 1972.

"It depends on who you ask," said Kane-Terhorst. "We are supposed to be moving into what they're calling the coffee shop/art gallery."

While the future location of Jo-2-Go may still be up in the air, Kane-Terhorst says that students have successfully helped raise money for the special needs-accessible vehicle she originally sought. The district is in the process of looking at a type of minibus that would be ideal for all students. Additional money raised is going into a district savings account and towards adding some more modern technology to the cafe.

"We've come a long way from thinking we might be able to sell half a pack of muffins," said Kane-Terhorst.

Raising funds aside, the special-needs students who help operate Jo-2-Go learn invaluable work skills as they assist with preparation, counting money and buying supplies. Students learn everything from time management to professional manners when interacting with customers. Some of the young baristas have used Jo-2-Go on their resumes to gain other employment.

"We have the opportunity to provide a supported work environment where students can't get fired and can learn important skills," said Kane-Terhorst. "It pays to support the different pieces of this program."