Thirsty Tiger cafe creates jobs at Greenville High

Published 8:00 am Thursday, August 31, 2023

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Greenville High School (GHS) is helping students gain confidence and develop soft work skills through The Thirsty Tiger, a renovated classroom turned coffee cafe run by the students. 

Currently, about 12 students help run the cafe under the supervision of GHS teachers Michele Thigpen and Donna Byrd.

“It’s just nice to see them gain confidence in something that’s not academics,” Thigpen said. “They feel important in these roles and like they’re accomplishing something, and that makes me happy.”

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The Thirsty Tiger menu offers a Cup of Joe, named after Superintendent Joe Eiland, the Jamie Java, named after GHS Principal Jamie Howard, the Brown Mocha Cappuccino, Iced coffee with flavor options, and hot chocolate. The organizers are also planning to partner with the GHS Culinary Arts program to offer pastries to sell as well, said Thigpen. 

A few of the students who really enjoy being a part of The Thirsty Tiger are Lance Jones, Randall Vancor and Jamarcus Hawkins.

Thigpen said when Jones first began working in the cafe he barely spoke and was very shy. Now he has come out of his shell, she said, and works in the cafe making coffee beverages.

“I enjoy working in the cafe and making the drinks,” Jones said. “It is a good work experience. I would like to own a restaurant one day, as I enjoy cooking. My favorite cafe drink is hot chocolate.”

Vancor works the cash register and said he has a lot of fun with it. He also said he could see himself working in a cafe one day and added that the Jamie Java is his favorite beverage. 

Hawkins said his preferred job in the cafe involves delivering coffees and picking up money for the orders. He wants to be a truck driver one day. His favorite cafe beverage is just a Cup of Joe.

The Thirsty Tiger has even been visited by Governor Kay Ivey who, according to Thigpen, had a great time laughing and interacting with the students working the cafe. 

The coffee cafe is usually open on Fridays from 8 a.m.-10 a.m., and at other times for special events. Teachers often place their order on a Google doc and the students running the cafe will deliver their coffee. Students are allowed in the cafe as well, but in the future the cafe might be an incentive and reward for students who meet certain academic criteria. 

The cafe was created about two years ago. Thigpen said Howard has been very supportive and let her take the reins in the creation process of the cafe. 

Thigpen chose most of the decor and was aided by the GHS carpentry class which built the counter tops, Stacey Edwards who painted the Tiger wall art, and the GHS art department which painted the brick wall illusion. 

Thigpen also credits Danielle Simmons and Michelle Phelps for their help in getting the project started.