by Moira Cullings
LENEXA — If you walk into Holy Trinity School here on any given weekday morning, you’ll discover young business professionals in the making.
Thanks to a class called School Store, created by computer technology teacher Lori Henneberg, seventh- and eighth-grade students are gaining real world experience in the form of a merchandise shop.
“This is the most hands-off class I’ve ever had,” said Henneberg proudly.
Ordinary products like fruit snacks and pens now serve as tools for her students to master invaluable business skills.
And with all profits going back to Holy Trinity, participants are realizing how good it feels to give back to the school they love.
Outshining the expectations
School Store sells a variety of products before school, which the students who signed up for the class purchase, price and sell — almost entirely on their own.
“I was pretty excited [at first] because I knew a lot of the little kids were going to like it,” said Rylee Loftus, an eighth-grader at Holy Trinity.
“I got to work it the first day and it was completely packed,” she added.
Many of the student participants had more modest expectations.
“I was nervous it was going to be a first time thing and then no one else would come after a while,” said seventh-grader Audrey Mellick.
Eighth-grader Seth Filipsen didn’t worry about it too much either way.
“It was just a little extracurricular activity to do before school to get active and involved,” he said.
Little did the students know that the class would be one of the highlights of their year.
Those involved dedicate one to two mornings a week running the store and one afternoon in a classroom setting — both about 20-minute sessions.
“Usually there’s four to six people working at a time,” said seventh-grader Nathan Nichols.
Jobs include an accountant, a manager, a seller and a crowd controller.
“[The store] is completely theirs,” said Henneberg. “I just stand back and offer assistance when they need it, but they love it because they get to take that leadership.”
“They have really stepped up and filled the shoes of such big leadership roles,” she continued. “And they’ve done it very well.”
So well, in fact, that the store continuously receives customers each morning, feeding the confidence that drives the students’ work.
“It’s much better [getting hands-on experience], especially being an accountant,” said Nichols.
“It’s not just in the book anymore,” he added. “It’s good to have a real-life situation.”
For the students, the perks of the real-world experience are only exceeded by the opportunity to give back to their school.
The profit they make goes back to the school in a way the students collectively choose.
Their choice this year?
A new water fountain for the entire school to enjoy.
“Originally, their goal was to just get one [fountain] this year,” said Henneberg.
“But we were actually able to buy one by halfway through the year, so now we’re able to talk about getting a second one,” she continued.
Not only is the new water fountain — located in the cafeteria — a huge hit with all the students, it’s also eco-friendly.
“It helps the world and helps the school,” said Filipsen.
Now when the students pass the fountain, they feel a deeper sense of purpose.
“I feel like I made a difference on the school,” said Mellick.
“Every time you see it, you’re like, ‘Hey, I helped get that,’” said Loftus.
And for Nichols, it’s even more rewarding knowing the entire school contributed in some small way.
“We as a group accomplished this,” he said, “and everyone helped.”
Another unique aspect of the class is the sense of community it builds.
“Sometimes, you get to talk to some eighth-graders, and you get to talk to people who you don’t really expect to talk to during class or passing periods,” said Mellick.
“It’s a great sense of community,” said Filipsen.
For Henneberg, the values her students are learning are crucial to a successful future in whatever field they choose.
“We talk about honesty and being prudent with our time and our money,” she said. “And being kind to others in our attitudes and the way we approach everyone else.”
“Hopefully, they’re taking those Christ-like skills with them and becoming more than just an employee somewhere, but a really outstanding employee by using some of the skills that other people who don’t get that Catholic education don’t have,” she added.
Both Henneberg and the students hope the class carries on next year.
“I taught them the business skills and the entrepreneurship,” said Henneberg, “but they are the ones who made it happen.
“It’s really neat to step back and watch them learn by doing.”