The cool quotient of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos may not make sense to grown-ups, but at one tiny middle school, it factors into the draw, the till and the bigger picture for young teens.
Break time at Modesto Christian School’s Crusader Hut draws a crowd. Dollar bills and handfuls of change buy bags of candy, cookies and chips alongside a steady stream of chatter at the student store. Private schools can sell any snacks, any time.
Wednesday, middle school leadership students Isabella Cantu, Gavin Lowell and Christian Alameda manned the counter, calling out totals and confirming the change.
“Working (the Hut) is superfun. It gives you a chance to meet everyone,” said classmate Christina Miller, an eighth-grader. Sixth-graders especially tend to hang out and talk to her, she said.
High-schoolers drop by, too, bringing the Hut’s base to 75 potential customers, said leadership teacher Marissa Meeks. Finding out what those 75 customers want, managing the stock, tracking the money and staffing the store all fall under weekly business lessons she lays out for the eight leadership students. Students pick the products and set the prices, using 25-cent increments for fast sales to the break-time crowd.
The draw of student sales staff and product selection by peers seems to be a winning combination. School staff members ran the snack shack last year but made only a fraction of what the students have brought in, Meeks told the eight-member class. “You guys are killing them,” she said.
Counting up their week’s sales Wednesday, the seventh- and eighth-graders weighed what was selling and what ended up in the clearance bin.
Two brands of chocolate chip cookies sold equally well, Casey Chicoime said, adding, “We should look at which one’s cheapest.” A batch of candies close to its expiration date tasted bad, class members said before deciding to write off the chocolate balls as a loss. The best seller? “Hot Cheetos, hands down,” kids said in unison.
A suggestion that the Crusader Hut help out the girls basketball team with a snack fundraiser, keeping none of the proceeds, nearly got shouted down. Meeks’ suggestions to “service your customers” and “build an alliance” failed to persuade the profit-minded. But noting that the coach would decide if the Hut could sell fizzy drinks did.
“We have to get on Coach Rob’s good side so we can get a soda license,” said Lowell, the newly voted employee of the week.
After tallying up piles of small bills and stacked quarters, dimes and pennies, the week’s snack sales revenue came to a little less than $400. Profit, however, was down because of product purchases and something not every business needs a column for: charity.
The class had voted to donate $102 to feed 50 people a Thanksgiving dinner at the Modesto Gospel Mission. “I think it is great to see students taking responsibility to help the less fortunate,” Kevin Carroll, executive director of the mission, told Meeks.
Plans by the leadership class to give money and food to the Salida Food Bank are moving forward. The students also plan to fill Christmas Child shoe boxes with toiletries and toys.
“I feel really good when I give back to people. I get this feeling inside, like I’m doing something good,” said eighth-grader Julia Rodig.
The class can afford a few good works, with profits to date ahead of projections. The weekly accounting showed the Hut has cleared $1,218.59 this semester. Next semester’s class will choose a gift for the school.
Also considered were money for a local animal shelter, field trip scholarships, T-shirts for the class and a pizza party. Everyone had ideas, said eighth-grader Christina Miller. “We tried, but we all disagreed,” she said.
Buying a holiday meal, however, was an easy decision, class members said.
“You need to treat people like you’d like to be treated,” Casey said. “If you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you want to have food?”