Students run store in Merrick school

Carly Sehoenferd, left, 20, of Merrick, works at

Carly Sehoenferd, left, 20, of Merrick, works at The Stable, a new store at Sanford H. Calhoun High School in Merrick. The students there learn the ins and outs of how to operate a store. (Oct. 11, 2012) (Credit: Chris Ware)

"The Stable" is one of the newest small businesses on Long Island, and it's entirely run by high school students.

The small shop, which had its grand opening Tuesday, is located within the corridors of Sanford H. Calhoun High School in Merrick and sells merchandise including smartphone cases, jewelry and school logo clothing.

The Stable is staffed by students, a majority from the school's award-winning special-education program, "Prep for the Future." About 80 students are in the program, which focuses on vocational training to help students transition from school to employment.

The program sends older students to work at local businesses to gain real-life experience and job skills. The Stable will be another source of part-time jobs, and about 40 students in the special-education program will be able to work at the store.

"I'm really excited to be working in it this year. It's a nice experience to learn to operate a store," said Matthew Kamper, 18, a student in the special-ed program who will be working at the store on Fridays. "It will make for a useful experience for the real world."

At The Stable, the students will learn about every aspect of running a store, such as operating a cash register, checking the security cameras and being a good salesperson, said Cheryl Gitlitz, the transition coordinator for Bellmore-Merrick Schools.

The various duties at the store will allow the students to experiment and see what their strength is, said Emily Paluseo, chairwoman of the special-education program at Calhoun High.

"That's really what we're trying to develop for them, that niche for them to fit into," she said.

The store was the product of a group effort by the school staff, teachers, students and the community, Gitlitz said. The idea was first pitched in January, with a majority of the work building the store -- in a classroom that was formerly used for testing -- done over the summer.

Inside the store, a large white C adorns the blue floor, clothes hang on racks and are folded on shelves, and a glass case of jewelry made by a Calhoun alumnus, who is now a fashion student, acts as a service counter.

The school raised funds for the effort, with many members of the community donating construction and store materials.

"I think the community needs to know these kids are very, very capable . . . and they are good workers," Gitlitz said.

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