PONCA, Nebraska (KCAU)– For the past two years, staff at Ponca have placed an order for coffee every Wednesday. It first started with Conner Bromander, a former student with Down syndrome, and after he graduated the torch was passed on to Ella.
Ella is a 7th grader at Ponca Public School who moved to town earlier this year. When Ella was 6 months old, she was diagnosed with Cornelia De Lange Syndrome, which can cause physical, cognitive, and medical challenges.
“When Ella moved into the district, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to continue on with the coffee cart,” said Andrea Stewart, a 7-12 resource teacher at Ponca Public School.
The cart was dubbed Ella’s Espressos, and with help from Stewart, both Ella and her prepare for their coffee run before Friday.
“On Wednesday, we send out an email to all the teachers and staff and they just fill out what coffee they want, any creamers hot or cold. And then on Thursday, Ella and I, we prep for the cart. We write the names on the coffee sleeves and get the pods out and ready to go for the next morning. And then on Friday mornings, we brew up the coffee and she delivers it,” said Stewart.
Ella said her favorite drink is iced coffee.
Going from classroom to classroom, Ella handed out 20 cups of coffee to both elementary and high school teachers, charging $2 for their cup of joe.
“It’s nothing to make money on, but it helps with her working on money skills for the students and the social interactions and communication, just an overall great opportunity for Ella to interact with teachers. She learned a lot of the teachers’ names, she also learned her way around the building,” Stewart said.
Everywhere you look at Ponca Public School, almost every student seems to know Ella, and when she walks into a room she brings fun and excitement to her classmates and teachers.
“I think it’s really fun to have. It’s a good way to kinda build a community, and it’s really neat to see her. And I’ve noticed she’s gotten better every week. more confident, and we always have new coffee choices, so it’s really cool to see that from her,” said Leann Curry, K-4th reading and math teacher.
And what is Ella’s favorite part of the coffee deliveries?
“Teachers,” Ella said.
“Ellas is the highlight of our day, all the time. And I think a lot of people would tell you, Ella is a highlight of their day. When you’re in the presence of Ella, it’s really hard to be in a bad mood; she just brings a positive energy. She’s a beacon of light to not only the staff but the students as well,” said Allison Stansberry, the 7-12 principal at Ponca Public School.
When not delivering coffee, Ella enjoys hanging out with friends, gymnastics, and eating chocolate.