Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

By: William Ford

Tucked away in the hall of Trojan Pride lies the Jenks Thrift Store.  Under the directive of Jenks Staff Courtney Bennett, the store, located in building six, is operated by the students of the Jenks special education department.  While Jenks-goers visit the store for it’s clothes, student made greeting cards, small novelties and other goods, there is also an underlying cause that all profits go to support.

The Jenks “I can work!” program is an initiative that prioritizes teaching life skills to special education Jenks students through hands-on training and first-person experience.  Through both the experience offered and profit generated by the Thrift Store, it is the perfect solution to further the program’s endeavors.

Students sort through the Thrift Store’s large clothing selection.

“We take our kids to [the store] and [the bank],” Bennett says.  “Using the money from the Thrift Store, we are able to teach our kids how to deal with financing, grocery shopping, and other activities.  [The Thrift Store] also allows our students to learn more mundane, but just as important tasks: the students must inspect products for damages, as well as learn to do the laundry and other valuable skills.”

“Originally,” Bennett adds, “our goal was to provide an early intervention that acclimates kids into the workforce.”

Though Bennett’s initial desire to give her students valid working experience during school hours has been a massive success, in the store’s initial year of opening, keeping a steady line of donations proved difficult until donations hastily picked up.

“One day, we received a massive donation of arts and crafts supplies,” Bennett says, “which has allowed our students to create their own product for the stores, such as handmade greeting cards.”

Nowadays, where the Thrift Store has a steady stream of donated products, and these greeting cards are not as crucial for maintaining inventory as they once were, they still hold value as an activity for students and a novelty that customers are happy to purchase.  Due to a simultaneous influx in product donations, the Jenks Thrift Store has even partnered with the Jenks Black Student Union in order to stay open for more hours each day and generate more income to go towards supporting these students in their program.

Thrift Store’s shoes, bags and other items.

“In the future,” Bennett hinted, “we would even like to expand our hours further.”

And the life impact of the Jenks Thrift Store has been a massive success.  After learning these life skills and mastering control of their own finances, shopping, and schedules, Jenks Thrift Store workers are capable of continuing this line of work into their adult lives.

“Our seniors who graduate after spending time in the thrift store often go straight into work with Goodwill and A New Leaf foundations,” Bennett said.  “The experience they gained in the Thrift Store here often allows them a good position within the non-profit organizations they begin to work for after high school.”

For everything that it does, the Jenks Thrift Store is an excellent opportunity for Jenks special education students.  It gives them life experience and working skills, as well as helps them develop social abilities and gives them future working opportunities after high school.

Come by the Jenks Thrift Store, room 6114!

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