Popcorn Store: HHS students run real-life business

Photo submitted by Anna Bradfish Houghton High School students Katelyn Roth (left, front), Jacob Johnson (behind) and Kraig Atkinson sell popcorn to middle school students on Thursday.

HOUGHTON — Anna Bradfish, a special education teacher at Houghton High School, is using practical business experience to prepare her students for the job market after high school.

Bradfish started a popcorn business for her junior and senior students about two-and-a-half years ago as a part of the school’s positive behavior system.

Her idea for the business was further developed by the high school Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) team system the school has adopted.

MTSS is a district-wide initiative intended to instill positive student behavior. The goal is to reward students in middle and high school for exceptional behavior and kind acts.

Bradfish said she created the popcorn business for her students after attending several conferences that highlighted the disparities in job opportunities for people with disabilities.

“I had realized that students and adults with disabilities have a much lower employment rate than their non-disabled peers,” said Bradfish.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, 17.9 percent of persons with a disability were employed, compared to the employment rate of people without a disability at 65.3 percent.

Bradfish said she found that alarming.

“I didn’t want that to become the norm for my students,” she said.

She thought a business would help her students gain better opportunities in their future. With the popcorn business, the students get the opportunity to gain work experience.

The students make the popcorn, sell it, count the inventory and record sales figures.

“There’s a lot of responsibility that they have. It provides them with job skills for the future,” said Bradfish.

She said those skills are important because “high school students can have a hard time getting jobs.”

The students sell the popcorn to middle school students during lunch on Thursdays and high school students on Fridays.

Students are allowed to buy popcorn with their GRIT (Goals Respect Integrity and Teamwork) cards or put it toward a purchase in the store.

This year the students added a physical store located in the commons area of the high school, where they sell school supplies, fidget spinners and Gremlin gear like hats, caps and T-shirts.

“It’s pretty neat. It’s not a common thing, so I’m glad we have an opportunity to do it here,” said Bradfish.

The students recently partnered with the school’s Booster Club with the goal of “getting more Gremlin swag and gear in the hands of students,” said Bradfish.

She said they are taking their time with things but have plans to do more with the store.

The students are currently looking to give “The School Store” a permanent name in the near future.

Bradfish believes the students are learning a lot about themselves and businesses, so they can take what they learned with them into life after school.

“I want them to feel good about their self and know that there are jobs out there for them. … I want them to be able to transfer those skills to jobs after high school,” said Bradfish.