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SELMA – Instead of merely learning about math concepts, organization skills and customer service by reading about markets in a book, the Terry Elementary after-school students have opened up their monthly Fresh Produce Stand for a hands-on learning experience.

With their cafeteria transformed with signs, cashiers and apron-wearing staff ready to assist, the stand officially kicked off the season Dec. 12. Fliers were sent out to parents and staff and for future markets, the general public is welcomed to come shop.

After-school Site Leader Gao Hang said the students were excited when the markets started last school year.

“It got started because we wanted the students to get experience how it would be to have a real-life job and responsibilities,” she said.

So in addition to their regular activities such as homework help, arts, crafts, music, yoga and sewing classes, the students are continuing with the market business this year.

“We prepared for a good month and did examples with them,” she said of the training that took place before opening day. “We trained them about how to work the cash register and if a customer needs help about where the food is. We also taught them to be professional and to be nice.”

Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Project Specialist Luis Trejo said they’ve partnered with OK Produce who brings the fruit, vegetables and juices the day before each market. It’s unpacked and set up on cafeteria tables by students and chaperones.

There are a number of other schools throughout Fresno County that are also hosting markets, from Kings Canyon Unified to Mendota Unified, Trejo said.

“We’re at 12 school sites right now that have markets on a regular basis. They’re learning practical skills that they wouldn’t learn on the regular basis in school. They’re also getting the hands-on experience.”

Trejo said the goal is to have students realize how what they’re learning in the classroom directly ties into skills they’ll need in the workforce one day. Plus, they also learn soft skills such as customer service that will come in handy no matter what profession they go into.

“We hope they’re thinking about life past school and are making the connection between what they’re learning in class and about nutrition. We also want to make sure they focus on that healthy life and that having a positive lifestyle centered around vegetables and fruits is something they can do on a regular basis.”

Shoppers can pick between vegetables such as bell peppers, potatoes and tomatoes and fruit such as apples, oranges, cantaloupe and bananas. There are also fruit roll-ups and juices for sale.

“Even the prices you see here are better than the markets out there. And it’s high-quality products at a very affordable price. We want to make sure that’s extended to our communities and that the students recognize it’s an opportunity they’re providing,” Trejo said.

Fifth-graders Jesus Durita and Zachary Vieira teamed up to work one of the cash registers.

“I like working with my friend, Zach, and helping people,” Durita said. “We’re selling fresh products and the sales are good.”

Sixth grader Michael Apolinar explained how the labels were made beforehand so customers would know exactly how much every item cost.

“We had to set out all the purchases, and make the signs so they know how much everything is.”

It’s Apolinar’s second year of working at the school market. He used to help people find the products, but now he’s moved up to working the miniature cash register and was using a tally sheet to total bags of fruit and vegetables.

“It’s kind of hard because you have to think ahead and get it right so we can give back change.”

Apolinar said he likes the idea of working at a bargain store when he’s a grown-up where items would be more affordable for every family. For the Terry Fresh Produce Stand, he liked that their store helps people eat nutritious meals.

“I’m learning that people should be healthy.”

Sixth grader Valarie Santillan agreed that having healthy food available was the best option for their customers.

“We get to sell fruit and vegetables. It’s fun and you get to learn how, when you get older, how to work in a market.”

Adding up the different purchases quickly and making sure they’re accurate can be tricky, though, she said.

“It’s gets a little bit busy trying to find the prices and getting the right amount. I like selling to the people so I think I would want to work in a store. It makes me feel good to help the families by eating healthy food,” Santillan said.

The markets are scheduled to be 3-5 p.m. during the second week of each month from December through May at the Terry Elementary cafeteria at 12906 S. Fowler Ave., Selma. Bring cash or checks only to make your purchases. For details, contact Gao Hang, 400-9885.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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