Freedom High School’s Student-Run Bistro a Lesson in Ambiance
WOODBRIDGE, Va. — It’s a café in a high school in Woodbridge that serves breakfast and pastries to students, faculty, and school employees each morning.
The bistro located inside Freedom High School is student run and offers an escape from the trapping of other area restaurants.
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The Freedom High School Bistro Café and Bakery is the brainchild of department chair Marilyn Austin. She is the first to admit that its success stems from the hard work of students and staff. Appreciative customers—school employees who are most often teachers—describe the ambiance in the Café as warm and inviting, with soothing music on a Lifescapes CD playing in the background.
Students also serve breakfast pastries and coffee off a cart or provide room service to faculty from 7:30-8:30 a.m. each morning. Chicken chili is one of the favorites on the soup and salad menu. “It is truly fabulous,” says Myrna Nolla-Horner, a transition specialist in the Special Education Department.
Sarah Melendy, testing coordinator, who often joins school counselors Erin Mayer and Mike Deabler for lunch, says, “The mood [students] create makes it a little escape.”
“It’s just great,” says Deabler. “There are no phones; no one is knocking on doors. We love it.” He likes the chicken Caesar salad.
A nominal fee is charged to offset the cost of food purchases. Profits go toward student supplies and educational and vocational field trips. All food is purchased “ready-made;” students assemble the food ingredients, following high standards of food preparation that are required in any restaurant.
The other half of the large classroom provides space where students learn and practice independent living skills. It contains a sink, kitchen appliances including a dishwasher, cupboards, a Murphy bed, larger storage cabinets, and washer and dryer. In the end, their experiences will help these students move confidently into the world beyond high school. It’s a “can’t miss” recipe for success.