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Jasmine+Countermarsh+%E2%80%9821+poses+at+the+school+store+during+Cav+block+on+Thursday%2C+June+7.+The+school+store+is+part+of+the+popcorn+selling+program+set+up+by+the+Life+Skills+team.+%E2%80%9CThe+goal+for+the+program+is+to+integrate+the+students+more+into+the+regular+population+of+the+school+in+addition+to+teaching+them+money+skills+and+skills+one+how+to+work+in+a+pressure+packed+environment%2C+it+really+kinds+becomes+one%2C%E2%80%9D+said+Milton+Robinson%2C+a+case+manager.+
Jasmine Countermarsh ‘21 poses at the school store during Cav block on Thursday, June 7. The school store is part of the popcorn selling program set up by the Life Skills team. “The goal for the program is to integrate the students more into the regular population of the school in addition to teaching them money skills and skills one how to work in a pressure packed environment, it really kinds becomes one,” said Milton Robinson, a case manager.

Jasmine Countermarsh ‘21 poses at the school store during Cav block on Thursday, June 7. The school store is part of the popcorn selling program set up by the Life Skills team. “The goal for the program is to integrate the students more into the regular population of the school in addition to teaching them money skills and skills one how to work in a pressure packed environment, it really kinds becomes one,” said Milton Robinson, a case manager.

Hannah RIseman

Hannah RIseman

Jasmine Countermarsh ‘21 poses at the school store during Cav block on Thursday, June 7. The school store is part of the popcorn selling program set up by the Life Skills team. “The goal for the program is to integrate the students more into the regular population of the school in addition to teaching them money skills and skills one how to work in a pressure packed environment, it really kinds becomes one,” said Milton Robinson, a case manager.

Hannah Riseman, Features Editor

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Beginning in late December of 2017, students in the Hollis Brookline High School special education classes started selling fresh popcorn every Thursday during Cav block for only 50 cents a bag. The new Hollis Brookline treat was a smash hit from the moment the students set up shop. The popcorn stand allows students to interact with different people, all the while enjoying a tasty snack.

It all started with an idea for a school store, according to Milton Robinson, a paraprofessional who helps the students run the popcorn booth each week. The popcorn stand was originally a fun extra to help advertise the school store, but it has proved to be the more successful of the two projects. “We were looking for a way for the students to interact with the other students in the school along with learning some life skills about how to sell, and count money, and how to make certain things, and we decided to make popcorn. We just kinda fell into it and it really blew up into more than we thought it was going to be and was really successful,” said Robinson.

At first, the group popped the popcorn in a machine borrowed from the booster club, but the demand quickly became too challenging for that one machine, leading to its demise. After it broke down, the students used some of the funds to buy a new popcorn maker, one able to handle the crowds popcorn day brings in. To put the demands in perspective, out of 163 students polled, 103 of them have bought, or routinely buy, popcorn. “I think our first time out we were stunned by how many people there were; we couldn’t pop enough popcorn so the line was down the hall. But as the weeks have gone on, we’ve figured out how to ‘pre-pop’ and get everything ready for the demand that’s out there,” said Robinson.

The snack is a delicious addition to Cav block, but why popcorn? Well, the program hopes to increase the interaction between the special education students and the rest of the student body. As Robinson explained it, “[the students] wouldn’t get to interact with other students from the school because of the classes they are in they may not see some of the other students in the school and that’s really given them the ability to recognize other students in the hall and being able to say hello.” Intrapersonal skills are essential qualities to have when joining the workforce and interacting with anyone, inside or outside a controlled environment like the school. The popcorn booth gives the students chances to make new friends and simultaneously develop these crucial competencies.

Beyond social and intrapersonal skills, selling popcorn teaches both math and how to work efficiently under potentially stressful situations. This real-life scenario allows the students to learn how to count money and give change quickly and accurately. According to Alyssa Bunker ‘21, her favorite position is working the cash box and dealing with the money. She has learned that breaking a twenty and giving change was more difficult than she initially expected. “[Selling popcorn] has given them real life situations with money. We also come back [to the classroom] and count and figure out how much we made that day and profits and things like that. It’s teaching them business life skills,” said Robinson.

Life skills students and paraprofessionals open bags, measure the ingredients, and fill up the popcorn bags. There are lots of jobs involved in keeping the popcorn booth running as smoothly as possible. “My favorite position is doing the cash box mainly,” said Alyssa Bunker ‘21.

The popcorn program has received a ton of support from both the administration and the student body, according to Robinson. But it isn’t just another lesson; the students enjoy selling the popcorn. Jasmine Countermarsh’s ‘21 favorite part of the Cav block popcorn sales is greeting people, and she sincerely loves everything about the booth. Josh Ward ‘19 also enjoys participating in the popcorn sales each week. He personally loves the money aspect and being the greeter; however, he isn’t the biggest fan of clean-up. Through the program, in its first year, Ward said he “learned about math,” suggesting that selling popcorn is a real world, fun way for life skills students to learn basic management skills to help them in their futures.

Both Kiyra Weaver-Bartis ‘21 and Bunker also had fun running the popcorn stand this past year. Both Bunker and Weaver-Bartis prefered to manage the cash box than do any of other jobs. Some other positions, as described by Bunker include: “popcorn prep, get all the kernels, oil, and the cheese in the thing. And then there’s the bag opener who opens the bag to get the popcorn in. There’s cash box number one and two, and some can get to do the cash box, some kids get to do the greeter, one kid get to do greeter, two kids get to do popcorn- giving the popcorn out. Then one kid gets to do the store and one kid gets to do prep.”

Inherently, the first year did bring some challenges for the group. One occasional issue was the popcorn machines themselves and their tendency to breakdown when overtaxed. Beyond machinery, the students had to start learning all the skills involved in concessions in a real life situation for the first time. “Just learning the different skills they need, from bag opening to measuring everything out, can be a challenge at times. But they’ve really stepped up to the plate and learned those things pretty quickly,” said Robinson. In fact, the students did such a great job running the booth, that they made enough money to go on several field trips, including an excursion to Canobie Lake Park at the end of the 2017-2018 school year!

The Cav block popcorn stand was overall a very successful endeavor which the Life Skills team looks forward to carrying on into the years to come. In the 2018-2019 school year, be sure to look out for the delicious popcorn, on both Tuesdays and Thursdays during Cav block, and say hello to the students selling the snacks!

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About the Writer
Hannah Riseman, Op-Ed Co-Editor
Hannah Riseman ‘20, is starting her first year in journalism as co-editor of the opinion section. In journalism this semester, Hannah looks forward to learning more about the writing style and the inner workings of a newsroom. Outside of school, Hannah is an avid horseback rider and has recently taken up kickboxing. In the future,...
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