Twice a week SFC Middle School students excitedly run to teacher Grant Stephenson’s classroom to start setting up for the pop-up store. With a vision to care for a local low-income elementary school in San Diego, the Middle School student store came to life. This student-run store is an ongoing mission for these middle schoolers to look beyond themselves and their everyday lives to see and recognize people in need in their community and take action to help. It’s more than just a week or two of supporting a different community; rather it’s about cultivating relationships that can only happen through a long-standing commitment and dedication.
The Purpose of the Store
When Mr. Stephenson began this project, he had a goal to both challenge his leadership class students and help them build practical skills. He, like many other teachers, knew they were capable of more. He longed to present them with a meaningful opportunity that would stretch and get them out of their comfort zone.
Stephenson connected with a contact at Care House Ministries. In that conversation, he learned about Marshall Elementary School, a school where students receive free subsidized breakfast and lunch during the week. Unfortunately, when school isn’t open, such as weekends, holidays, and breaks, those students may not have access to food at home. Thus, the idea for the student-run store was born. Using the profits made from the store, the leadership class is able to purchase food items used to pack meals for the kids at Marshall Elementary School, providing them with meals for the weekend.
Skill-Building in Action
In addition to supporting children in the local community, this store presents the opportunity for students to build a number of entrepreneurial, business, and life skills. Through this tangible real-world setting, SFC middle schoolers have the chance to live out their faith through ministry as a part of their education — and have fun while they’re doing it. “The student-run store is an opportunity for our Middle School as a whole to be able to do something to help other people who are less fortunate,” shares seventh-grader, Samuel.
The leadership class is responsible for most of the major decisions involving the store. They choose and order all the items, from bottles of Gatorade to candy and other snacks. They then set the retail prices – prices that are fair, allow them to make enough profit to purchase the food items for the kids at Marshall Elementary, and keep the store afloat. SFC students are encouraged to research, set a pricing strategy, and survey their peers to discover what they are most likely to buy.
The middle schoolers are responsible for keeping the store operational. Managing inventory is an essential part of the job. They track the items they’ve sold and decide when to order more inventory. Other responsibilities include handling the cash transactions, counting the money, and reconciling profits and loss.
Like all things in life, there’s always the “fun” parts of a job, project or initiative, and the more monotonous, yet very essential, tasks. With the student-store, middle schoolers are responsible for all the setup and clean up. They get to school early to bring out the tables and chairs then break down the store after closing. “That’s not the glorified part of a job, but they have to do that hard work to have the end product of being able to donate that food to the school,” points out Mr. Stephenson.
“It’s taught me about patience and what that word means. What it means to other people and how it can like relate in our life,” adds sixth-grader, Carson.
This powerful lesson carries into all areas of life and at a young age, SFC middle schoolers are building a strong foundation for life.
Faith in Action
It all boils down to this: faith in action. Mr. Stephenson reflects, “I’ve got to go visit the school, to see the excitement on the [Marshall Elementary] kids’ faces when they get bags of food that we take for granted. My hope is to get them [to SFC], so [SFC students] can see how great that impact is.”
The two greatest commandments are to love God and love others — through the student store, SFC middle schoolers are presented with an opportunity to learn, work hard, take responsibility, and serve in a way that opens their eyes to see the individuals in their community. Living out their faith often takes the form of sacrifice, and in this case, the sacrifice of time, energy, and self to love those in need.