12 special education students at Gulfport High School have a big order to fill. They have two hours to blow up 100 balloons, and deliver them in time for Friday night's prom.
Beverly Smith is one of the students. She says it's like a real job. They make balloons, cards and a variety of gifts for special occasions. Teacher Tamika Barnes says they do balloon bouquets, gift baskets, and candy bags, which is a hot seller with the kids.
They sell the goods right in their classroom. Their gift shop is called "Creations By Us". It's open Tuesday through Friday, from 11:30 A.M. until 1:15 P.M. The money they make is used to buy supplies and restock the shelves.
The program gives the students hands-on experience. Barnes says the students learn customer service skills, how to operate the cash register and how to tie bows. They also learn clerical skills like typing and filing. Barnes says it gives them something to take with them when they leave high school, so they can hopefully find a job.
The students also get a boost in confidence. Catherine Newkirk is a guidance counselor. She says it's good for their self-esteem, because they're doing something productive and they're really good at it. Beverly Smith says it makes them feel like they're running their own business. With the skills they learned in this program, the students could set high hopes and become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
The gift shop started this school year with a $2,500 grant from the Gulf Coast Business Services. The students hope to use the money they make from the store, to keep the program running in the future.