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Students at Zeeland charter school open coffee shop

Amy Biolchini/The Holland Sentinel • Jan 24, 2016 at 6:00 PM

ZEELAND (AP) — Re:Fuel, a student-designed and operated coffee shop at a Zeeland charter school, is now open for business.

Students at iCademy Global in Zeeland have been creating a business plan for the shop for at least the past year. In May 2015, a group of high school students traveled to Honduras to learn more about the economy of coffee — and how important it is to the local growers that they be paid fairly for their hard work.

"It's the really cool, hands-on learning that I really enjoy," senior Sara VanBeek, 17, told The Holland Sentinel. "The goal is to let people know about coffee and the work behind coffee. I think everyone would be a little more appreciative of coffee instead of just going to Starbucks."

Re:Fuel celebrated its grand opening Jan. 14 by brewing up cups of both light and dark roasts for guests of the school's open house. The coffee is supplied by Aldea of Grand Haven. The shop will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on school days.

"I started drinking coffee when I was 5 years old," said Mike Kolenbrander, 16, a sophomore at the school.

Kolenbrander is among the students in the coffee shop management class that will be manning the counter for the rest of the semester. For him, three cups a day is standard.

Other students enjoyed the introduction to the addictive liquid, like Jacquelyn Buckner, 17, a senior.

"My favorite part was learning how to make the coffee, because I've never really been around it," Buckner said.

Students met each Wednesday for about two hours to plan out the business. The shop tried out its soft opening in December.

The cafeteria space in the iCademy and Innocademy building has always been present, and teacher Phil Dirkse who runs Zipper Labs has been trying to figure out a purpose for it.

"A big part of iCademy is a global focus," Dirkse said, noting that the school is planning another trip to Honduras in May. "Kids can meet the farmers that make the coffee."

Tyler Huizenga, social studies teacher, helped the class make the connection with the growers in Honduras. Huizenga used to teach in Honduras.

"That's my passion, is the international development," Huizenga said. "I want to help to plant that seed (for students), to want to travel."

The class was able to launch the coffee shop with a $3,000 loan. All proceeds from the initial sales will go to paying back the loan.

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