The YEZ at Banana Kelly: Student Store Update!

By Stephanie Gilman, Program Manager

Banana Kelly’s student store opened in March of 2011 as an attempt to give a small group of the school’s students practical work experience and responsibilities in which they could take pride. As we described right here on the blog, it’s a resource that they can manage themselves–for students, by students.

The store is now finishing its second semester of operation, and the response has been overwhelming. YEZ Program Coordinator Joahan Suarez has been managing this effort, and here’s his report on the last 4 months of the store’s life.


On Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s during the hours of 11:55am – 12:35pm, Banana Kelly’s room 313 is one of the coolest spots in school. As soon as students go on lunch break, they visit the YEZ store to buy under-200 calorie bags of chips, string cheese, fruit snacks, water, and 100% fruit juice, and the newly-added honey bun. While they eat these items, they make new friends, catch up with old ones, and sign up for community service projects.

[pullquote]It’s a resource that they can manage themselves–for students, by students.[/pullquote]

Since its inception, the store has seen a lot of changes. Its popularity around the school is evident from the large amount of clients it receives during the day. And while it began as a project specifically for 9th and 10th grade boys, the store now has two female students who have already provided key ideas.

But the story of the store is perhaps best told by considering those who work there. Jerry Canela, for example, is one of our managers. He has been present every single day during store hours, and has been very good at providing ideas to increase clientele. His charming demeanor has brought in customers and employee applicants. Jerry has been literally the first person in the room helping me set up every day this year; he loves working at the store so much that he now comes to school every day.

Rudy Paulino also started this year as a School Store Manager. Rudy has been a difficult student to engage; he has a lot going on at home, and is prone to outbursts and social disagreements. The week before Halloween, Rudy was unfortunately disrespectful to the store staff, and as a result he was forced to step down as manager until he could address his behavioral problems. At first he was reluctant to do so, but the incentive of working at the store proved effective. He discussed his issues with Stephanie and myself, which is a huge step for a student like him. Since then Rudy has been more focused in class, he has been behaving better with other students and teachers, and his presence in this room is generally more positive.

Yestiny and Jessica are 9th graders, the very first two female applicants ever to work in the store. When Yestiny first approached Stephanie and myself about a position, we explained to her that the school store was created for “hard-to-engage boys who don’t like to come to school”. “Well, I’m a ‘hard-to-engage girl who doesn’t like to come to school,’ ” she replied. Stephanie and I were so shocked by her answer that we decided to allow her to apply. She was accepted, and has enjoyed the experience of working at the store so much that she decided to invite her friend Jessica to the staff. They both have provided critical ideas for the school store, for example adding a third table for miscellaneous materials such as small bottles of lotions, hand sanitizers, hair ties, and gel pens. The store is looking to start the brand new year with a third table selling these goods to the student body.

We are proud to have made a difference in these students’ academic experience with Banana Kelly’s student store. We look forward to engaging even more students in 2012 – among our plans are a series of “financial literacy” workshops to supplement our employees’ work! Look out for the next student store update!