Beginning around one year ago, Destrehan High School got its own student-run store, offering DHS faculty and staff clients snacks, products, supplies and office services while at the same time giving its Special Education students direct experience with running a retail business.
Students in Destrehan High School’s (DHS) WildMart are developing proficiency with retail sales, customer service, money and inventory management, bookkeeping a host of other real-world skills as they sell supplies and services to DHS’ army of roughly 200 faculty and staff. The teacher-supervised program is staffed primarily with students from DHS’ Special Education classes, while still integrating students from some of its standard classes.
“We’re a customer service-oriented store for all DHS staff, but we don’t sell anything to students,” Marci Fullilove, DHS Special Education teacher who helps run the program, explained. “Students are assigned different jobs for different days; some of them might have the same job for a week, depending on how long it takes them to learn a particular task.”
Fullilove helped implement the program around a year ago after first arriving at DHS. While working in her prior teaching gig at nearby Central Lafourche High School, Fullilove observed a similar campus store in action, and used her experience there as a model for the new WildMart program. Various DHS staff contributed additional ideas and helped craft a program designed just for DHS.
Fullilove said she has observed several of the students involved in the WildMart program become transformed with improved self-esteem and confidence after becoming engaged with the program. She pointed to the example of one student who – when she first started work at WildMart – did not initially possess much in the way of customer service or people skills, but after a short time working in the program the student’s entire outlook and demeanor changed for the better.
“[Now] she smiles, she wants to help everyone – so they’re gaining all kinds of confidence being in [the WildMart program],” Fullilove said.
Faculty and staff have enjoyed the program as well, Fullilove said, saving them time with ordering and picking up snacks, supplies or handling minor office-related tasks. With the student delivery aspect of the program, staff can have their supplies, copies, or other items delivered directly to their offices or rooms vis student workers.
“They absolutely love it, and don’t know why we didn’t start it sooner,” Fullilove chuckled as she gauged DHS staff’s reaction to the program.
Thanks to new incentives handed out by school administrators that directed some staff to receive items from the store, more DHS staff than ever are now aware of the program.
“That helped us a lot – some teachers that had never seen or even realized what the store was got to come and see it, and now we have so much more business than before,” Fullilove said. “We’re always normally busy, but now we’re really, really busy – which is great.”
Given the program involves Special Education students, some of which have motor skill difficulties, DHS staff initially met and outlined various problem areas, devising ingenious systems to help students complete their work. Velcro labeling systems were designed for inventory tracking to assist some students with motor function difficulties. Adaptive devices and supplies such as adaptive staplers were purchased to help some students complete certain tasks. A large, big screen monitor is constantly on during working hours, showing WildMart students all outstanding tasks and real-time order status.
The program was initially begun from seed money supplied by a DHS teacher incentive fund, but Fullilove said in the program’s first year WIldMart now financially supports itself.
The DHS Special Education teacher said the program is constantly on the lookout for new products and services to offer. It recently began making and selling balloon arches for Homecoming week as a seasonal product offering. WildMart students have recently experimented with offering flower delivery services, and there are now discussions to potentially partner with DHS’ horticulture class to grow fresh vegetables which WildMart could then sell at the local farmers’ market. There is even talk of offering lamination and paper shredding services.