Tiger Den Expands Horizons

Cassi Reaka, Student Life Editor

The EHS Tiger Den has become a staple of many students’ daily routines, but just three years ago the Den was only three coffee pots and a dream.

The Tiger Den started as a way to provide real life work experience for students in the Functional Life Skills (FLS) program, Tiger Den founder Susan Converse said.

“The Tiger Den evolved from cookies on a cart to a full-service coffee shop through the hard work of the students in the FLS program and the acceptance and support of the EHS students and staff, as well as outside partnerships,” Mrs. Converse said.

Many of the recent upgrades to the Den’s equipment came from donations by local businesses such as Artisan 222 Bakery in Edwardsville and Ronnoco Coffee Company in St. Louis. However, the real growth was made possible by something else.

“The Tiger Den is an authentic work environment which naturally replicates an outside work setting for the students,” Mrs. Converse said. “They acquire skills that they can then take out in the community to secure and maintain employment.”

Tiger Den employees have had the opportunity to grow their social and practical skills through interactions with customers.

“I’ve learned to handle my emotions, even when it gets difficult,” Tiger Den employee senior Ryan Bobb said. When asked what his favorite part of working is, he said, “I’m willing to do anything, because I love doing it.”

Senior Michael Bugger, another employee, said that one of his favorite parts of the job is helping with customers.

“I love taking their orders,” Bugger said.

A few of the students in the FLS program, including Bugger, will begin working at SIUE this month in the food department. They will be doing jobs such as food stocking and mopping, according to Mrs. Converse.

“My students are excited to have the opportunity to work. I’d love to open a similar type of establishment in our community, so all are assured an opportunity to keep working,” said Mrs. Converse. “That’s my dream.”