CHAMPION - Winston Jennings and Nicole Collins kept the boxes moving as they prepared for the lunch hour rush at the Hot Spot on Thursday.
The two students, participants in the Marketing Education program at Trumbull Career and Technical Center, unpacked food and priced it so the shelves could be stocked in time for the customers, who typically pour into the market on any given weekday, to buy.
''We usually have about about 150 people a day,'' said Emilie Herald, 17, a junior at LaBrae.
Program at TCTC gives students retail experience.
Customers include TCTC students, staff, teachers and members of the public - many of whom prefer to frequent the market inside TCTC rather than venture into other stores outside the center.
TCTC's marketing program has been around since the center was established. However, instructor Michelle Plakosh said she sees the market as one of the area's best kept secrets, noting many TCTC visitors think it is ''just a little store.''
Rather, the store has a bakery corner, coffee counter, full-service deli, clothing line and several shelves stocked with canned foods, boxed items and numerous snacks. It is operated and staffed by TCTC students.
Nicole Collins, 17, left, and Winston Jennings, 17, unpack boxes and mark prices as they prepare for the day at the student-run Hot Spot market inside the Trumbull Career and Technical Center in Champion. Students learn real-world experience in running a retail store as part of the center’s marketing education program.
Tribune?Chronicle photos / Virginia Shank
''This is real-life experience,'' she said. ''People come in and buy here. The students have experience in every job, from preparing food to working as cashiers to stocking shelves, to managing other people. We rotate jobs so the students move from position to position. They learn to work with the public.
''In here, they can't say they can't do it. In here, you do everything - or at least give it your best try. It's hands-on experience you use in here that you take out there.''
Participating in the program last year helped prepare Thomas Whiteman, 18, for his job at Youngstown Crab Company, where the Girard senior works part time.
''It definitely gets you prepared for the nerve-racking, face-to-face communication with the public,'' he said. ''I think if you can learn to work with the public, you can do just about anything when it comes to a job or career.''
Whiteman said he acquired many skills and knowledge he didn't expect when he signed up for the TCTC program. That included evaluating other ''employees'' in areas of appearance, professionalism and abilities when it was his turn to act as manager.
''You also learn a lot of other tricks of the trade, like safety tips and how important presentation is and how the store looks,'' he said. ''There are so many areas and so many details I would have never even thought about without this program. No matter what, no matter what we do, all of that will help us.''
Plakosh said all of the students are trained and are certified through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which regulates job site safety requirements. They also learn and are required to follow health and sanitation regulations.
The marketing education program consists of two years of study. The first year is spent working at the store, learning the functions of marketing, pricing, promotion, among other skills, and applying these functions in a real world environment. During the second year students split their days in half attending school part of the time and working in a marketing related field the rest of the day. If students don't have jobs they are required to complete community volunteer opportunities.
"I don't really focus on preparing the kids to work in a store specifically, as their primary goal," Plakosh said. "My goal is to help them get involved in a marketing field or to open their own businesses,which is just what a lot of these kids hope to do. There are so many things they can do."
Plakosh said she tries to encourage students to look at all of their possibilities.
"Start working in a store, restaurant or other business," she said. "Learn all you can about it. Don't settle there. Look at opportunities to go into management. You can build a career and a life that way. If you do that, you've accomplished something with your life and that's what this is all about."