Student businesses booming
JCMS students practice job skills
When teachers hanker for a morning latte at Jefferson County Middle School, all they have to do is say the word and a student will deliver one right to their classroom door.
The popular latte service is one of two student-run businesses at JCMS, funded through a grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust.
The $5,000 grant, targeted at providing vocational training and education for special education students, was acquired last year by teacher Lisa Macy, and after she moved, has been managed by teacher Karl Lundy.
To get real-life experience working with customers, the special education students opened two stores: A school store called "The Busy Buffalo" and the "Bison Brew" coffee shop.
The grant provided seed money to purchase a professional espresso machine for around $2,600, and inventory for the school store.
Last Thursday, sixth-graders Phillip Crask and Jordan Allbritton were waiting on customers at The Busy Buffalo, which is open Tuesdays and Thursdays, the last 10 minutes of each of the school's three lunch periods.
Items are priced around 50 cents or $1 and students can buy things using either money or JCMS Blue Tickets, which are earned through good behavior.
"The store is part of JCMS' effective behavior program," Lundy said, noting it provides a place for kids to cash in their blue tickets for a reward they select themselves. The store only sells academically-oriented items, not candy or pop, Lundy pointed out.
"The store provides kids with social skills, practical skills like customer service and giving change, and the mathematical function of figuring out the change," Lundy said.
Thursday, the selection of merchandise included race car-shaped pencil sharpeners, colorful note pads, gel pens, rulers, pocket organizers, toy maze games, and more.
With 10 weeks of store experience under their belts, both student clerks said they enjoyed the work.
"I like it," said Jordan, noting there wasn't anything about it he didn't like.
"He's got retail in his blood," Lundy joked.
To which Jordan explained, "I've worked with my mom at a store in Wasco before, and sometimes I go to work with her in Madras at Aaron's (furniture store).
When asked what his favorite thing about the store was, Phillip said, "Everything!" He indicated he might be his own best customer, noting, "I like to shop and buy things, especially Super Balls."
Over at Bison Brew, teacher's aides Lisa Kathrein and Vikky Schultz are the espresso machine barristas, while seventh- and eighth-grade students deliver drink orders to teachers all over the expansive school.
"Ya, I like working here, it's fun!" said Terry Rider, 13. He said the coffee shop is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday (from 8 to 9 a.m., just for adults) and teachers order and pay through the school bookkeeper, so students just have to deliver.
"We deliver all over the school and get about 10 to 15 orders a day," said Fidencio Abeja, 14. Fidencio said his favorite part of working at Bison Brew is getting to quaff a cup of cocoa with marshmallows and whipped cream when his shift is over.
Customer favorites include Snickers and Milkyway flavored lattes, and the shop also offers hot cocoa and spiced apple cider drinks. The only time kids can have drinks is if a teacher orders cocoa or cider for their entire classroom as a reward, Schultz said.
Sometimes business is hectic. "The day before Christmas we had 62 orders that morning because everybody got a freebee as part of Teacher Appreciation Week. The kids were really running!" Schultz laughed.
Guadalupe "Lupe" Juarez, 14, helps deliver orders and also helps Schultz clean up when the hour is over.
Back in the classroom, the older students are studying business in conjunction with running the coffee shop.
"We've started ideas for our own business -- mine's a skate board park -- and then figured out how to do it," Lupe said.
For this week's lesson on advertising the students looked through newspapers and discussed which ads caught their eye and why. They have also designed business cards and signs for their imaginary businesses and have completed expense worksheets on what it would take to get their business up and running, Schultz said.
While teacher Maureen Adams does the inventory and bookkeeping for The Busy Buffalo, the older kids keep track of inventory and do all the ordering for the coffee shop. Coffee products are ordered from Longbottoms Coffee Company in Portland, and milk and whipped cream come from Eberhards Dairy in Redmond. All funds earned by both stores go back into the program to keep the stores running. Assistant Principal John Horn helps out as supervisor of the coffee shop, so the two aides can focus on their barrista duties.
On Jan. 24, a person from the county health department is coming to give the Bison Brew students a test to get their food handler's license.
"Now they can only deliver, but with a card, they will be able to help make the drinks," Schultz said.
Frequent customer Char Rowe, school secretary, was enthusiastic about the espresso shop. "It's awesome. It gives kids a chance to be delivery people and the staff doesn't have to go out and spill on themselves trying to carry in drinks in the morning. And the price -- it's only $2!" she said.