Bookstore operation teaches valuable lessons in business

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 13, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / December 13, 2000

EDGARD – Eleventh-graders at West St. John High School are getting a first-hand lesson in running a business.

Since the beginning of the school year members of Mary Johnson’s social studies class have been operating the Finance Academy Bookstore out of an empty classroom.

“I thought this would be perfect for them, because they really needed an economic project,” Johnson said.

The store sells school supplies such as notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers and paper. It also sells other items that have the West St. John High logo onthem like flags, cups, and T-shirts. The students are hoping the store willbecome a stop for students who are Christmas shopping.

“We sold a lot of West St. John High flags,” said Deshawn Smith, “In fact, wesold every flag we had.”The store, which is still waiting for more shelf space for inventory, is a learning experience for the students. They are all part of a school-to-workprogram called the Finance Academy, which teaches high school students about working in the outside world and how to handle finances.

“This store has taught me how to manage a store,” said student Eneka Barre.

The Wantu Wazuri Civic and Social Club donated $500 to the students as seed money to start their adventure in capitalism.

Johnson said they have the full support of the St. John the Baptist ParishSchool Board, which donated some of the shelves and helped to transform the classroom into a store-like atmosphere. Also, special education studentsdesigned and put up all the signs for the store.

The store is run totally by 11th-graders who compete for internships in local businesses. How well they manage the store determines if they will get acoveted internship. In the 12th grade students finish their Finance Academytraining by taking courses in banking and credit.

Right now, the students are trying to drum up business. The store is openbefore school and during school lunch periods. At the beginning of the schoolyear business was very brisk. However, customers are kind of rare rightnow.

“But we are getting into the science project time of the year,” said Johnson, “and the students will need a lot of supplies. So we think things will pick up.”Eleventh-grader Terryn Oubre was optimistic. “We haven’t shown a profityet, but we are getting there.”The students and Johnson want to do two things with the profits from the store. First, they want to re-invest in inventory, and they are also savingfor a big trip to New York City where they want to go visit the New York Stock Exchange.

Johnson said their other project in the Finance Academy was working on stocks and bonds, and she wants her students to see where all the action is on Wall Street.

“We’re going to have to sell a lot of folders, pens and pencils,” said Johnson.

But even if they don’t get to the Big Apple, running the store has been a very valuable lesson to the students.

“It’s just been a great experience,” said Smith. “You learn how to managemoney, no matter what field you want to go into.”By the way, the store does not extend any credit. It’s strictly cash.

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