Students at Elm Street School in Mechanic Falls stand with cups of coffee to be sold as a fundraiser for the Dempsey Center in Lewiston. From left are Ali Starbird, Deja Cummings, Ezra Edwards and Alyvia Bryant. Eriks Petersons photo

MECHANIC FALLS — A $75 “investment” six weeks ago has grown into a $1,200 donation to the Dempsey Center in Lewiston, thanks to a coffee project by a group of fifth and sixth grade students at Elm Street School.

On Thursday, the students will present the check to the center at a school assembly.

The students were able to establish a business that was “far more successful than any of us could have ever imagined,” according to teacher Jacie Welch.

Welch, the enrichment teacher who leads the Gifted and Talented Program at Elm Street School and Minot Consolidated School, said fifth graders Alyvia Bryant and Deja Cummings asked if they could start a business as part of the Junior Achievement Program.

Welch suggested a coffee delivery service. She said it worked very well in a school where she worked before.

Acting as the “banker,” Welch loaned the students $75 as seed money.


She said she considers real-world applications necessary to learning.

The students researched pricing to find out what would be competitive and fair, conducted a survey among the teachers to form a menu, purchased the supplies and began the service after April vacation.

Welch thought anything earned over the $75 would be a bonus.

“Never in a million years did we realize how successful it would be,” she said, in addition to the experience and the confidence the students gained from the enterprise.

The students designed and produced their own website and TV commercial for the endeavor.

They also offered “sweet treats” such as chocolate chip brownies sixth grader Ali Starbird bakes.


All coffee requests are preordered via e-mail. The prices are $2 for regular coffee, $3 for a latte and $1.75 for lemonade.

Welch said students decided to donate the funds to the Dempsey Center after discovering “that everyone knows somebody who has had cancer.”

The $1,200 donation also includes matching funds from the Almas Group and the Aebli Group, business consultants based in Auburn.

A group of fifth graders at Minot Consolidated School have also entered the coffee service enterprise for teachers and staff there. Proceeds are expected to reach $300 by week’s end and will be donated to the Bag Pack Program funded by the Vineyard Church in Mechanic Falls.

Next year, both groups of coffee vendors plan to offer more choices, as well as provide customized mugs instead of paper and plastic containers to cut down on waste.

Minot Consolidated School students, from left, Sidney Russell, Ian Rioux, Lilah Rose Pittman, Owen Wallingford and Zachary Bartlett stand around the Mustang Coffee wagon. The service for teachers and staff raises money for the Bag Pack Program funded by the Vineyard Church in Mechanic Falls. Eriks Petersons photo 

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