Greenville High School kicked off tiger pride on Wednesday when Governor Kay Ivey stopped by to check out the Thirsty Tiger Cafe inside the school.
The store is the brainchild of teacher Michelle Thigpen. She saw a need and decided to fill it.
The official opening happened in November.
Thigpen said, “We open it two days a week for teachers. Our students usually work in the morning. When we have a special event for school, we will open it at night.”
Wednesday was definitely a special occasion for the students working in the cafe. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey stopped in not just to visit them, but to try their delicious brew.
Everyone was excited to see the governor and spend time with her during this busy campaign season.
Vivian Atkins Gates, a student at Greenville High School and daughter of Dale and Sheryl Gates, gave an interview to the governor. She asked many insightful questions and left us all with Ivy’s best advice, “If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything.”
The students were happy that Governor Ivy stopped by to visit them and see their new store. Ivey took the time to take pictures not only with the students but with those adults gathered around this special occasion as well.
I spoke to each student and inquired about how they enjoyed their jobs. Everyone smiled and told the governor that they enjoyed working there.
“The café is run by a special education class,” said teacher Donna Bird.
Next year, Thigpen hopes to have more hours on student schedules.
“My advisor already knows how many children would like to work here,” she said.
The store gives these students the practical and practical experience they need to join the workforce when they leave high school.
“It’s like a regular job for these students. That’s why I wanted this room to look like a job and not just another classroom.
“We tore up the tile floor. We painted the block walls. The kids in the carpentry class built worktops and shelves. It was really a collaborative effort by the whole school.”
“Students have clean-up responsibilities when it is closed for the day. Most importantly, they know that when they are here, they are not supposed to be on their cell phones,” added Thigpen. She said she’s noticed this a lot in different places and wants her students to realize how important it is to be at work and not have distractions.
“These are the soft skills that employers are telling us they are looking for in the workforce right now, and we have to work on that,” she said.
Thigpen has been a teacher for 25 years now. While she loves her job, she said it’s great to have something new that gets him excited.
But the project did not happen overnight. It’s been in the works since before the pandemic hit Greenville.
“When I went to different conferences around Alabama, I noticed that the big cities had business programs for special education classes. So, I asked myself why we didn’t have that in Butler County,” Thegpin said.
Her big motto for this project was, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get it.” But you have to know who to ask.
Thigpen was awarded a one-time grant for this project from the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services. “This is how we got the funding to start the project.”
“The City of Greenville donated, the Rotary Club, and I spoke yesterday to the Kiwanis Club,” Thigpen continued to say. Everyone seems to be as excited about this project as it is.
“There is teaching and learning going on here,” said Greenville High School Principal Jamie Howard. He is very proud of the work his students have done in helping Thigpen achieve her dream of a classroom that would help underserved special education students in our community not only have a better chance of achieving it in the real world, far from the safety of a high school environment, but Give them skills that will truly last them a lifetime.
If you or your organization is interested in helping with this project, you may contact Director Jamie Howard at (334) 382-2608, ext. 2100 or email him at Jamie.Howard@butlerco.K12.al.us.
Michele Thigpen can be reached at ext. (334) 2608382. 1910 and its email Michele.Thigpen@butlerco.K12.al.us.