Grand Island Public Schools
123 South Webb Road
Grand Island, NE 68802
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IslanderExpress coffee and bagel shop now open

IslanderExpress, a partnership between Big Apple Bagels and Grand Island Public Schools, is now open. IslanderExpress will serve Big Apple Bagel coffee and bagels, with a limited menu. The hours for the drive-thru coffee and bagel shop will be from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on GIPS school days only.

IslanderExpress is located at the GIPS Workforce Prep Academy building at 644 S. Locust Street, at the corner of South Locust and West Anna. Bagels and coffee are fresh every day, which is required when selling Big Apple Bagel products.

The Workforce Prep Academy is an innovative school-year program that provides high school students to have opportunities for career exploration, employment preparation and work experience. It is a transitional and alternative program for students who may need a different learning environment.

Students at Workforce Prep Academy are employed, as part of class credit, with different partnering businesses. Like at any other partnering business, IslanderExpress will allow students to gain hands-on work experience. IslanderExpress will be student-run, with Workforce Prep students manning the drive-thru window and preparing orders.

Associate Superintendent Robin Dexter called IslanderExpress “the brainchild” of Workforce Prep coordinator Lori Watts. The student-run coffee shop has been a dream of Watts’ since she became coordinator a few years ago. 

“It’s something students can have ownership of,” Watts said.

Shellie Pointer, co-owner of Big Apple Bagels in Grand Island, said partnering with GIPS to open IslanderExpress was a “no-brainer.”

Last year, Watts and Tracy Molina, a job coach at Workforce Prep, approached Shellie and asked if she was interested in having any of the students work at Big Apple Bagels as a placement. Haili Swartz, a Workforce Prep student, was the first such student to work at Big Apple Bagels.

Pointer said she’d been wanting to open up a store on the other side of town, as Big Apple Bagels is located on State Street. At the same time, Watts still had her goal of opening up a student-run coffee shop at the Workforce Prep location. In about a year’s time, the two organizations came together to make it happen, having both the approval of Big Apple Bagels corporate office and the GIPS Board of Education.

“I’m thrilled,” Pointer said. “It’s an amazing opportunity to help out the community and help out the schools, while also serving bagels on a different side of town. I’m excited.”

IslanderExpress students work in the coffee shop.Swartz and Chris Pearson are the first student workers at IslanderExpress. IslanderExpress had a soft opening Oct. 28 through Nov. 1, and the students have already been learning valuable job skills.

“I’ve learned that greeting everyone is very important,” Pearson said.

Swartz said she learned many skills while working at Big Apple Bagels, and working at IslanderExpress helps her hone those even more. She said she didn’t know how to run a cash register or count back change until last year, when Molina helped her. Molina is the main staff manager of IslanderExpress and has been helping students learn more job skills.

“When she helped me, I finally got it,” Swartz said. “She’s really good at what she does, and I’m excited to work with her more through IslanderExpress.”

“I can’t say enough about Lori (Watts) and Tracy (Molina),” Pointer said. “They’re so talented, and the whole Workforce Prep staff makes such a positive impact on students.”

Pointer said a big reason the partnership was a no-brainer is because she knows it will help students grow and succeed.

“When Haili first started at Big Apple Bagels last September, she was very shy,” Pointer said. “By the time she finished in July, I saw her grow so much and gain confidence. To see the growth, that’s what this program is for. So they can go out and get a job in whatever field they want to go in their life. This is the stepping stone.”

Pointer hopes to possibly expand the menu at IslanderExpress if things go well. 

Pearson and Swartz are both very excited for this new opportunity with IslanderExpress and hope to serve many people.

“I love it here already,” Pearson said. “I hope we get a lot of customers.”

IslanderExpress students work in the coffee shop.

Media Inquiries
Jack Sheard, Marketing & Communications
308-385-5900 Ext. 1127