Mateo Wilfong had the greeting part of retail down pat. The 15-year-old Tivy High School student wanted to know your first name and last name and then repeated it back to you to make sure he said it right.
On Friday, Mateo and his classmates Araceli Aguilar, 16, and Sasha Ramos, 16, eagerly waited for customers to visit the pop-up Tivy Treasures store inside Blue Oak Trading Co., a Junction Highway-based boutique in Kerrville. The store is part of Tivy’s special education program, aiming to provide real-world experience to students.
It started as a simple conversation between teacher Rebecca Goodwyn and occupational therapist Stephanie Woods about how to keep the students, many with developmental and learning disabilities, learning workforce skills.
“We were interested in making T-shirts and products on campus, and it grew from there,” Goodwyn said of the initial concept of Tivy Treasures.
At Blue Oak, the store took over a wine bar area, and Wilfong, Ramos and Aguilar excitedly showed their wares — most of them made by the students. The Kerrville Independent School District recently lauded the efforts of the students and staff for growing the project into a full-fledged retail operation.
Shoppers can find various Tivy Antler or TFND gifts, from mugs to stickers to T-shirts. Wilfong’s favorite was a TFND (Tivy Fight Never Dies, for the unacquainted) baseball cap. Ramos loved the water bottle, while Aguilar liked a small mug with a reusable and washable metal straw.
“We have 25 in my classes that actively participate every day in making the products,” Goodwyn said.
However, a fundamental of the initiative is the soft skills needed to be successful — from counting back change to taking credit card payments.
“They have to learn about pricing all the products with the right price and then helping display those products,” Goodwyn said. “And then once we go into the store and sale, they have a point of sale that they’ve learned to run.”
While there’s a presence on Tivy’s campus, the once-a-month expansion to Blue Oak adds one more layer for the students.
“We start prepping them a couple of days before they come, and they’re all super excited,” Goodwyn said.
And the enthusiasm was telling. For checkout, Ramos was responsible for ringing up a purchase while Wilfong helped wrap the purchase. Aguilar provided moral support during this sale round but is ready to step in immediately.