Arlington DECA members help local families, get hands-on experience

ARLINGTON — For one day the Arlington High School DECA students were tasked with running the Arlington Safeway store, albeit with some help from the regular employees.

From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 11, 55 AHS DECA students not only collected food and money to support local families in need during the holidays, but they also rotated through all the store’s departments to receive on-the-job training on all aspects of its operation.

“We’re collecting for 36 families through the Arlington Food Bank, and four more through the high school,” said Becky Victory, AHS DECA event chair and acting store manager of the Arlington Safeway. “Those families range from three to eight people each.”

AHS DECA Advisor and marketing teacher Tyler Payne thanked the staff of the Arlington Safeway for taking the students under the store’s wings, not only to give them hands-on lessons in their own fields of expertise, but also to serve as a staging ground for students to request donations and pour cups of hot chocolate and cider for passersby.

“We’ve been hitting this store hard,” Payne said of the students who had already been soliciting food and money from Arlington Safeway customers in previous weeks. “We’re approaching 10,000 donated food items, and we’ve been averaging $150 to $200 in cash donations a day.”

Although this is the AHS DECA students’ first year of on-the-job training at the Arlington Safeway, the students had received similar on-site lessons at the Smokey Point Safeway in previous years.

“We learn how the departments work with each other,” Victory said. “It’s beneficial to us in a number of ways, such as getting better at running our school store.”

AHS DECA students Alex Barton and Morgan Mackey took customers’ coffee orders under guidance from Arlington Safeway Starbucks clerk Tesia Lingenfelter, while fellow students Madison Tolliver and Ashley Norris learned the subtle art of flower arrangements. Kaitlyn Bolten boxed up fresh batches of cookies in the store’s bakery, while fellow AHS DECA student Cannyn Morris stirred up the sauce for some General Tso’s chicken in the deli department. Michele Holsworth and Coty Vandewerfhorst stacked fresh fruits in the produce section, and Taylor Youngquist and Makenzie Milless served up seafood at the meat counter.

“Even things like floral arrangements are harder than they look,” AHS DECA student Ben Comerford said, after cycling through several store departments. “You basically have to do 16 hours of work in six hours. It’s tiring. The manager’s job is awesome, because he’s there to ease everybody’s stress, so that they’ll do their jobs better and customers will be happy and want to come to the store more often.”

Fellow AHS DECA student Emily Nolan reflected on how fortunate the store employees are to be employed.

“It’s been a hard couple of years,” Nolan said. “I’ve seen so many people in this community who are needy, but I’ve also seen so many who are generous. They keep doing more.”

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