Students’ Summer Business Supports Charity

weeks lemonadeIt’s hard to get cars to slow down, let alone stop along Park Avenue outside Weeks Middle School. That doesn’t stop Alessandro Aboytes, 11, from holding his sign and calling out, “Lemonade!” at every passing car.

“You keep doing it because you know you’re helping people out,” Aboytes said. His charity, Ronald McDonald House, will receive every dollar of profit earned at his group’s hand-decorated lemonade stand.

Aboytes and his summer school classmates, 125 in all, are divided up into four groups, each with a different charity.  Each group mans the lemonade stand for 50 minutes a day.  They started with $100 in seed money to buy supplies; lemonade, posters and markers.  As of Monday, they’d netted more than $450.

The seed money comes from a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant.  The grant allows eight Des Moines Public Schools middle schools to offer the 21st CCLC summer program to hundreds of students.

The free program is a half-day for some students and a full day for others.  Bussing, breakfast and lunch are included.

In the morning, students spend their time learning about different cultures with visitors from West Africa, Brazil, Japan and India.  They also learn to build things out of everyday items for the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) part of the program.  And recently, they were outside planting flowers, mulching and picking up litter.

Afternoons, they turn into entrepreneurs.

“It’s fun,” Jaqui Lopez said. “I get to work and sell lemonade.  I like it.”

Monday afternoon about a dozen students walked up and down the boulevard holding signs and hollering at passing motorists.  It’s hot and you can see the fatigue on their faces.  Nothing perks up the group like a driver who is willing to stop for a minute to pick up some cold lemonade.

“We get so excited, we all stop and watch,” 11-year-old Cassidy Sherrard said. “We forget to keep holding up our signs!”

This time, the customer is Jami Moss, of Des Moines.  She buys two glasses and smiles big at the kids.

“I love supporting them,” Moss said.  “And we are thirsty!”

Moss said her son will go to Weeks someday.

The whole exchange lightens the muggy afternoon.

“It makes me happy when someone stops,” said Abbi Flinn, who holds up her sign and begins yelling again.

Instructor Claudine Cheatem thanks Moss.  She notes that good begets good.

Cheatem said she knows that by the end of the summer, the 10-13-year-olds will have made new friends and learned the basics of running a business.  But she hopes they’ll also take with them a sense of community and teamwork.

“They’re learning how to think outside of being a kid,” Cheatem said.  “I keep telling them one day we’re going to leave the world in your hands and you’re going to have to learn how to take care of it.”

The Weeks Middle School students will continue selling lemonade outside the school this week on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons.  They’ll wrap everything up on Saturday afternoon with a sale outside the Hy-Vee at East 14th Street and Park Avenue.

Next week, they’ll present the profits to their charities; Ronald McDonald House, Fleur Heights Nursing Home, ARL, Make a Wish Foundation and Mercy Cancer Center.

Click here to see more photos of the students selling lemonade

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