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The Titan Shoppe: A unique resource, staffed by Life Skills students
Students and teachers pose for picture.

While walking down the hallways of the West Mifflin Area High School, you’ll pass a number of classrooms. Tucked in between those classrooms on the first floor, though, is an inconspicuous enough room that houses a unique resource.

From the outside it might just look like another classroom, but go inside and you’ll see the Titan Shoppe, a full-fledged breakfast shop, with a print shop in the back.

The Titan Shoppe was born in 2019. Previous to that, life skills students had run a coffee cart. The cart was a hit, and unused space lent itself to a new purpose. The front-facing part of the Titan Shoppe is completely run by life skills students throughout 1st and 2nd period, when teachers and students alike rush to get their coffee or bagel fix. 

During 3rd period, students will restock, take inventory, and clean. And then during 4th period, students will rotate with a paraprofessional to balance the cash drawer. In the back of the room is the print shop, stocked with high-end resources to construct professional grade t-shirts, wraps or whatever is needed. Life skills students will print, fold and box t-shirts, as well as assist with inventory.

Richard Vogtsberger, a life skills teacher in the district, said the Shoppe teaches the students crucial, employable skills, while also preaching accountability.

“I think the main skill that we focus on is not necessarily filling orders or doing cashier type of stuff, it is more those executive functioning skills. We want kids to show up on time. We want kids to show up even when they don’t feel like showing up,” said Vogtsberger. 

“We kind of challenge them to push through it. We really want to push their soft skills and executive functioning skills, things like showing up on time, getting along with your coworkers.”

Vogtsberger said the Titan Shoppe has acted as a catalyst for a number of students to get real-life jobs, outside of the school. The Shoppe functions like a real store in just about every way, down to the POS (point of sale) system, which is the same one that is used at Kennywood.

“This has been a launching point for some kids,” said Vogtsberger. “The kids view this as a job. They understand that they’re getting skills that they can put on a resume and use to get a job outside of school.”

Vogtsberger said the Shoppe fits into a district-wide initiative to help prepare students well for a direct to workforce path, should they not have the desire to go to post-secondary education. Beyond that — and teaching students employability skills — Vogtsberger said the Titan Shoppe has a deeper, more important purpose. Through having a student-run business in the building, Vogtsberger said the school community is strengthened, sparking bonds and empathy along the way.

“I think the general education students benefit just as much as the life skills students because they’re able to see people who have disabilities every single day provide a service to their community,” said Vogtsberger.

“It shows them that people with disabilities have something to offer to the West Mifflin community and abroad. And it also teaches the student body a little bit of empathy. That is probably the biggest benefit to our school store, in showing the general education students that students with disabilities do have something to offer to the school community.”