Sips and Smiles: A look into Southwest Sips: a student-run business

Junior+Gabi+Ricci+delivers+a+Sonic+drink+to+athletic+administrative+assistant+Diane+Murdock.

Rebecca Suku

Junior Gabi Ricci delivers a Sonic drink to athletic administrative assistant Diane Murdock.

By Rebecca Suku, Blue Valley Southwest

Spreading smiles and delivering drinks, Southwest Sips is a business managed by the students in the connections class. Connections class teacher Jackie Malec started the program three years ago.

Malec said she got the idea from another teacher at Blue Valley North High School and decided that it would be the perfect project for her class to take on.

“I really liked the idea and I was looking for a small business for our kids to run and I wanted it to be easy, something the staff would be interested in,” Malec said.

Malec said she and the students take orders from the staff at school, pick up the drinks at Sonic, interact with the employees there and then come back to distribute and collect the money for the drinks which are $2 each.

“It’s a great practice skill for our kids, especially with teachers that they don’t know, so they’re being asked to approach someone that they are not familiar with, and have a basic conversation,” Malec said.

Southwest Sips is also an enjoyable experience for the students involved and offers a break from the classroom. Junior Monica Hura said she is very fond of the program and finds it a great way to communicate with those around her.

“I like to deliver the drinks to teachers and just hang out with friends,” Hura said.

Another purpose of the business is to educate students on management skills and practice handling finances. They count out any change necessary, discuss any information regarding the business and total up their profit after they complete the drink distribution. Sophomore Paras Virk said the process of collecting the money and doing the calculations involved with it, interests him the most.

“I have learned a lot about how to deal with money and how to count it,” Virk said.

The business has made rounds around the school, and many teachers eagerly wait for the day their drinks arrive with a friendly messenger. They deliver the first and third Wednesday of every month. Science teacher Katie Lesando is one of Southwest Sips’ most frequent customers. She said she loves the program because of its’ inclusion of special education students.

“I also just really really enjoy a cherry limeade in the middle of my Wednesday, ” Lesando said. “It’s the peak of my day.”

The remaining profit goes towards the connections class and the special education budget, with which they get to spend on pizza parties or more Sonic drinks at the end. Malec said their business was popular when she had first begun the program and that it has only expanded since then.

“Numbers-wise, as the building grows, the number of orders grows which of course causes more profit,” Malec said. “The kids have done a really good job of getting the word out. They hang posters in the teachers’ lounges and staff restrooms so the teachers are aware.”

The business has also fostered friendships between the students and created a memorable way for them to get to know one another better. Freshman Avery Ferguson is a peer tutor that works with the connections students and helps out with Southwest Sips. She said she is benefitting from the program because she gets to fulfill her passion for helping others, assist the students and meet new people.

“The program is really fun because I have the chance to meet a lot of new teachers and make stronger friendships with the students that I’m helping,” Ferguson said. “We can talk about it outside of school and it is something that we look forward to every class.”

Not only does it allow for the students to have an entertaining outlet, but in the process, Southwest Sips provides an interactive way of teaching students important skills they will carry on with them for the rest of their lives.

“It’s something that’s fun, but it is also a break from the normal work that they usually do and it additionally teaches financial, social and life skills which are very beneficial,” Ferguson said.

This story was originally published on BVSW News on February 20, 2020.