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Dolphin Joes serves up lesson in business
Among those responsible for Dolphin Joe’s are, from left, Brian Henry, Alvin Diaz, Marc Evans, Roy Pfeifer, Ashleigh Wilson, and Austin Kinlaw. - photo by HIME ROMERO
It was a great year for Dolphin Joe’s at Stella Brockman School.

The student-operated coffee shop tended to at least one distinguished guest in State Sen. Lois Wolk, numerous administrators, and catered the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new Manteca Unified district office.

Dolphin Joe’s is the creation of teacher Christine Simoncic, who handles students with special needs.

“When I worked in the Bay Area, we had a workability program for students,” she said Friday. “But we only operated during brunch.”
Simoncic has been at Stella Brockman for the past three years, opening Dolphin Joe’s during that time using a temporary setup in the first year.

“We had to set it up and take it down every day,” she recalled.

Much has changed in those short years. Dolphin Joe’s has a permanent home on campus equipped with a sink and oven, enabling students in Simoncic’s class to do a bake-off each Friday.

“We’ve had boys against the girls, baking (from scratch) anything from cookies to muffins,” she said.

In doing so, students were required to apply math in measuring the ingredients necessary for the baked goods along with the reading involved in perusing the recipe.

But it’s the daily cup of Joe that attracts customers.

Here, six students including Brian Henry and Alvino Diaz served as the driving force behind Dolphin Joe’s.

“I could never do this without their help,” Simoncic said.

They’re were the ones making coffee – the beans were compliments of Jesus Mountain – along with espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos for teachers and staff on most days.

Henry, who was up and about by 6:30 a.m., worked on many of the shifts. He was often joined by Diaz, who worked three days out of the week.

“You could really see the disappointment in Brian’s face on those days we were closed,” Simoncic said.

Henry and Diaz were eighth-grade students and will be moving on in the fall.

The coffee shop, meanwhile, enabled students to use many practical skills.

“It also provided them with social skills, self-esteem, and the whole understanding of handling money (for business),” she said.

In addition, Principal Diane Medeiros praised the students.

“Not only was (Dolphin Joe’s) a positive impact for students, but it gave them some life skills,” she said. “They were a joy to the staff – the kids really got to know them this year.”