Norwich Free Academy’s school store, the CAT Shack, is a student run operation that sells hats, sweaters, key chains, snacks, and slushies. Business teachers Kyle Legnos, Linda Farinha, and Christopher Wilson teach students how business exploration and marketing works so that they can run the store as efficiently as possible. They believe that the CAT Shack provides many benefits to both its employees and customers.
“I think it’s pretty cool to have the kids come in, run the store, run the cash register, restock shelves, organize closets, and keep everything moving and flowing on a day-to-day basis. And it’s also pretty cool to open every day, because I don’t think a lot of students are able to do that,” Legnos said.
“We’ve got great school spirit here at NFA. So kids like to wear red and white. So when you have a Red and White Day or have Homecoming, kids get really excited about buying merchandise and wearing red and white, so I think that’s part of the success as well,” commented Farinha.
The school store has been a fixture at NFA for over 30 years. Retired business teacher, Gil LaPointe opened the store with the intention to give a hands-on experience in running a business to high school students. Students of all grades are allowed to apply for a job to gain experience working in the “real world.” Students are also trained by CAT Shack advisors who have previously worked at the store.
“Next year, we will have a student doing an independent study, who will work as the student manager. Part of her responsibilities will be to update the training manual and train all employees,” Farinha explained.
Upper Alexis Silva is more than enthusiastic to work in the school business and is grateful for the opportunity.
“You gain a lot of life skills and so, at this age, everybody’s trying to get a job. But in order to get a job, you need work experience. You only get work experience from a job, so it’s kind of a messed up system. So this here is not an actual job; [instead] you get paid in knowledge, like Mrs. Farinha always likes to say. But it’s a great work experience for you to put on that résumé for when you apply to your first job, and, actually, it helped me get my first job,” added Silva.
The CAT Shack is a place where one can learn and become prepared for the working world.