Students work for their grade, prepare for the future

Monday, June 25, 2007 | 2:13 p.m. CDT; updated 5:04 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

During the regular school year, the Between The Pages program gives high school students an opportunity to obtain high school credit by working at the MBS Textbook Exchange deli. They can even get paid if the business makes a profit. But during the summer session, students do make an hourly wage in addition to getting high school credit.

Michelle Baumstark, Partners in Education coordinator, said that Between the Pages is essentially a satellite school where students get a glimpse into what the professional world is like.

“We find that this is good exposure for them,” Baumstark said. “It shows them what the workplace expectations are.”

Students who participate in the summer session of the 10-year-old program are responsible for preparing lunches for MBS Textbook Exchange employees.

Baumstark said that even though MBS Textbook Exchange is the employer, the real success belongs to the student employees.

“Not all students learn the same way,” Baumstark said. “In this case, students have a classroom experience and a workplace experience. In that sense, they’re getting the best of both worlds.”

Andre Robinson, a recent graduate of Douglass High School, remembers having a less than stellar first impression when he started working at the deli three and a half years ago.

“I didn’t like it when I first started,” Robinson said. “I was working for the school but not getting paid.”

But Robinson’s opinion about the summer program with the deli changed when he started making an hourly wage. Not only was he making money while earning high school credit, but he was finding himself enjoying the time spent behind the counter.

Since Eric Bohle began working with the program six years ago, he has found it has only benefited the students who have come through the program.

Bohle primarily serves as a social studies and English teacher to the students in the program and supervisor of the deli.

“I see it as a work environment,” Bohle said. “These kids have to get along because they work with each other all day. This place is basically a fishbowl.”

Bohle says that the positive aspects of the program include high school students gaining a sense of professionalism and an eye for customer service, something they can only get outside of the classroom. This kind of preparation for the real world is the edge that the program provides for the students.

“This is a good alternative to just sitting in a classroom all day,” Bohle said. “We expect if they make mistakes, it’s better to learn these lessons here instead of later when they need to survive on their own and support their families.”

Employees at MBS Book Exchange, deli and industry employees alike, seem to have formed a little community of their own by the friendly chatter that takes place in the lunch line.

“It’s fun working with everyone because everyone’s so easy-going,” Robinson said.

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