- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - Slaving away over a hot fryer at McDonald’s or stocking shelves at the corner grocery store before starting on homework is a rite of passage that a majority of today’s teenagers will never experience. But a cafe in Stanfield is bringing the after school job back into fashion.

It started as a planning exercise in a Stanfield Secondary School business class, but after students in the Future Business Leaders of America volunteered their time this summer to remodel a building in downtown Stanfield, the Lucky Jam Barn is now a real business hiring real students for real jobs.

“If we wouldn’t have been involved this summer we would be jobless,” said Yazzmin Chavez, a barista at the shop.

The high school senior is one of several teenagers getting their first job experience at the Lucky Jam Barn. She said the cafe’s crew are pretty much the only teenagers in Stanfield she knows that have an after-school job, mirroring a trend nationwide that has seen the number of teenagers with jobs go from 61 percent in 2001 to 35 percent last February.

The Lucky Jam Barn isn’t affiliated with the school district, but owner Jason Sperr teaches business there and told students he would be willing to be flexible with their hectic extracurricular schedules if they wanted to apply for a job and gain some real-world work experience.

Most of Chavez’s shifts just involve serving up coffee and doughnuts to customers, but she also helps run the business’s Facebook page. She figures it will come in handy as she applies to University of Washington as a marketing major.

“It’s getting me into the whole marketing thing, seeing what works and what doesn’t,” she said.

Candida Rojas, also a senior, is interested in majoring in accounting, so Sperr is letting her help with payroll duties as part of her job to see firsthand how business accounting works. If nothing else, she said, it has helped her understand how taxes work, which will be a useful skill no matter her career path.

She said so far working about 12 hours a week hasn’t negatively affected her ability to get homework done and participate in extracurricular activities like the Knowledge Bowl.

“It gets a little stressful but it’s not too hard,” she said.

Guitzell Chavez, Stanfield Secondary’s senior class president, said she is learning to be more confident with customers the longer she works.

She said she wouldn’t have had time for an after school job if Sperr hadn’t been willing to work around her school schedule.

“I think it’s hard finding a job that’s flexible,” she said.

Ten high school students are currently employed by the Lucky Jam Barn. Sperr said when he first had students plan out a coffee shop in class he had in mind a student-run shop located on the high school campus, but after that didn’t pan out he decided the students’ work could be turned into an off-campus business.

Guitzell, Yazzmin and Rojas said they were proud to be “founding mothers” of the Lucky Jam Barn, which is an acronym of the founding students’ names. They said it showed something about women’s ability to contribute to a business. It was almost entirely girls who helped Sperr create the cafe’s business plan and remodel and decorate the building.

“We only have one boy,” Guitzell said. “People find that surprising.”

People are also caught off guard by teenagers working in more than just the back room, the girls said.

“When we spent our summer here we would have to buy paint, we would have to buy things,” Yazzmin said. “People didn’t take us seriously. It was ‘just some high schooler’ to them.”

She said she had to learn to be confident when placing orders for things like custom signs, just like she had to learn to be self-assured when it came time for her first job interview once the cafe opened.

“You have to be confident,” she said. “If you’re nervous and shy they’ll think that’s going to carry over into your job, that that’s how you’ll be.”

The Lucky Jam Barn, located at 270 S. Main St. in Stanfield, is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and includes a drive-through. It serves doughnuts, iced drinks and coffee with plans to later serve pizza and sandwiches. All tips go to scholarships for students who work at the shop.

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Information from: East Oregonian, https://www.eastoregonian.com

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