Student run cafe at Patchogue-Medford High School empowers special needs pupils

Freshly baked cookies can be smelled throughout the halls at Patchogue-Medford High School as the students and staff who run the Patchogue-Medford Raider Bean create treats and drinks for customers.

The café is known for cookies, making more than 200 a day, and consistently selling out. 

The café's success is a testament to the hard work of the more than 35 special needs students who work there.

The café was created during the COVID-19 pandemic when many of the work sites they’d normally visit were closed. For teachers and support staff, it was a way to facilitate vocational opportunities during the school day.

"A lot of these students struggle with academics so they don't find success then they come here and they’re like rockstars," said special education teacher Mike Taylor.

Success has been sweet. The students just moved into a new commercial kitchen thanks to a federal grant.

"The kids are experiencing a true fully functioning commercial kitchen in a nice small, nurturing environment so hopefully they could transition into their workforce," said assistant superintendent Dr. Jessica Lukas.

The Raider Bean business has made more than $40,000 in profits. All of the money goes back to the kids for field trips, scholarships, and of course, the creation of new recipes.