Lely High School students get real-world at corner store

— The newly opened Lely High Corner Store is giving Lely High School students entrepreneurial experience and an opportunity to prepare for life after graduation.

“This is an opportunity for the kids to get job skills (through) a school-based enterprise, which is helping them develop their entrepreneurial job skills,” said Dr. Katrina Nedley, who manages the Network for Students with Emotional Disabilities project.

The school celebrated the grand opening of the completely student-run store on Thursday during its lunch period. The Corner Store — which occupies a space that was previously used as a storage room for the wrestling team’s mats — is the fruit of the labor put forth by the students who are enrolled in a career development class, which gave them the opportunity to develop the business from the ground up.

Now there’s no question of the room’s purpose. A big smoking, orange L for Lely High with Corner Store written inside is graffitied on the wall behind the store’s main display counter.

“There are about five students that are going to be working in the store and they had to be interviewed” for their respective positions, said Frances Crowley-Minella, a behavior specialist at the school who wrote the grant and oversees the project.

The store, which will be open on Thursdays and Fridays during lunch and for a half an hour after school, sells Lely High School apparel, such as T-shirts, hooded sweaters, sweatpants, book bags and flip-flops. In addition to school pride paraphernalia, the store sells student necessities, such as candy, notebooks, pencils and pens. One student even made orange and black beaded bracelets to sell in the store.

In honor of the store’s grand opening, Publix donated sugar cookies with “LHS” written on them in black and orange icing. The cookies were given out as a ‘thank you’ to customers who bought something at the store, which made more than $40 on its first day.

“I finally get to work in it,” said Charlie Roberts, assistant manager of the Corner Store, who was excited about the store’s grand opening. “We were supposed to open earlier, but I’ve been waiting. It’s a good opportunity for us to be like in the real world and get to have a job. We actually get paid.”

Roberts went out with his father and collected donations of clothes racks and hangers from a K-Mart that was going out of business.

This is my first time “being at a regular job like this doing hours working and having a schedule,” Roberts said. Roberts, who is a junior, believes that working in the Corner Store will help him find a real job after he graduates.

Like a real job, the students have salaries too. The cashiers are paid $7 a shift, assistant managers are paid $9 a shift and the store manager gets $10 a week plus a percentage of the profits at the end of the month.

“As the store manager (Jonathan “Jon” Ryan) sort of oversees all the other students,” Crowley-Minella said. “He’s taken a wonderful leadership role, and we’re very proud of him.”

Ryan, 18, and a junior, believes that this job will provide him with the responsibility and skills necessary to find a job after he graduates. His favorite items in the store are the hooded sweaters, and he wanted the job because he wanted an opportunity to make money.

My responsibilities as the store manager are to “make the schedule for the other employees to work and to make sure the inventory is all good,” Ryan said.

It will be Ryan’s responsibility to make sure that the store is ready for opening on Thursdays and Fridays.

“If there’s any problems with the money or things like that, everyone just goes to Jon first, and he disseminates it to the students,” Crowley-Minella said. “He’s been very responsible this year and has shown us some good leadership qualities.”

The Naples chapter of SCORE: Counselors to America’s Small Business helped the 10 students involved in the project to develop a business plan, marketing plan and the basics of the business’ structure. They even helped the students conduct a student body survey on what types of products should be sold in the store.

SCORE is a national association that is dedicated to helping small business owners establish and develop their businesses.

The opening of the student-run store was made possible by a $1,999 grant from Project 10: Transition Education Network — which is Florida’s voluntary, statewide project that supports the secondary transition of youth with disabilities.

“Research shows that if they can find something that interests them and be rewarded for good social behavior, then they are more likely to stay in school and graduate,” Crowley-Minella said. “Their behavior was interfering with their education and in order to keep them motivated to stay in school and to graduate, this grant was received.”

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