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Fair Trade Coffee Shop Gives Saint Ursula Academy Community A ‘Boost’

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Story and photos by Eileen Connelly, OSU

On a recent Thursday morning, business was booming at Bulldog Boost, a student-run Fair Trade coffee shop at Saint Ursula Academy (SUA).

“I need my coffee, and this is quality coffee from a good source,” said religion teacher Deanna Cahill as she waited in line for a cup of java. “This is an amazing opportunity for students to practice social justice in a small way and make a difference.”

Fair Trade is an economic system which ensures consumers that the products they buy are grown, harvested, crafted and traded in ways that improve lives and protect the environment. Saint Ursula’s Social Justice Club has made a concerted effort in recent years to build awareness of Fair Trade practices in the school community, noted Rachel Kemper, director of community service learning.

Bulldog Boost is now in its third year of operation on SUA’s campus and sells regular coffee, iced coffee, cold brew, and chai out of space in the school’s Keller Student Center. It’s open before school on Tuesday and Thursday and on Friday during lunch. Each cup is $3, and all proceeds benefit SUA’s mission collection.

Kemper recalls the students’ enthusiasm when they approached her with the idea of selling Fair Trade coffee. “The girls were pretty pumped about it,” she said. “We had the space, so I told them to write a proposal and submit to our administration. They are the managers and do all of the staffing and training. What’s neat is that they’ve taken total ownership of it and have just done great.”

Junior Alivia Hyland, who leads Bulldog Boost, along with fellow junior Deirdre Carroll and senior Christine Moore, said a Fair Trade video that illustrated how little workers involved in coffee production (coffee pickers, migrant workers and farmworkers) are paid inspired her to become involved. “They work for hours on end for so little money,” she said. “This is something I can do to spread awareness.”

“I love coffee,” said senior Anna Pritchard, a regular customer. “This is a small way I can make a difference, instead of going to Starbucks.”

Social justice issues can be overwhelming for teenagers, Kemper said, and students are eager to find ways to become involved. The benefits of efforts such as Bulldog Boost extend well beyond the classroom.

“The students are learning that their purchasing has ramifications for people across the globe. They’re helping in a way that’s tangible and not hard to do, and they’re learning to run a small business in an ethical way,” Kemper explained. “There’s also the empowerment piece, since most of the people who are helped through Fair Trade purchases are women. Paying them fairly helps them support their families and communities.”

With support from school administration, students have also implemented other Fair Trade initiatives in recent years. As a result, SUA’s uniform shirts, some skirts, as well as many other items sold in the DawgHouse spirit shop are now certified Fair Trade. In addition, gifts from Fair Trade vendors are available during Saint Ursula’s annual Christmas boutique. Fair Trade campaigns, a national initiative to engage students in issues of global poverty, has designated SUA as an official Fair Trade School.

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