For the second year in a row Downtown Durant merchants got a helping hand from students participating in Jefferson Middle School’s “Students in Stores Program” (SSP).

During three weeks in February and March, sixth-graders in Harry Oliver’s “Unified Arts” class spent their third period (10:50 to 1 1:45 a.m.) stocking the shelves, tagging merchandise, running errands, and tending to customers at neighborhood shops.

“There were 30 students who met about two dozen Maple Street merchants, and then went through the process of resume-writing, interviewing, and working at a job,” says Oliver, who also teaches math and science at the school.

Oliver launched the SSP program in 2006, after recognizing that his students could use some job skills, and that both the kids and the community would benefit from positive interaction.

The students who volunteered their time this winter (they don’t get paid) wrote about their experiences in February.

Myron Chapman, who worked at Dave and Son’s Produce on Maple near Park, gave a detailed description of his duties.

“I carried boxes of food to be disposed, labeled prices with the price gun, stacked fruits on the inside display, carried garbage out, located products for customers, and kept milk displays stacked neatly.”

Myron added that “Dave was a very good man. I liked him a lot, and I hope I work again”.

Ernest Harrington had a part-time position with the Animal Company, at Maple and Main, “I worked with Emilio. We put items on the shelf, helped people put bags in their cars, fed the fish and birds, and priced the items and other fun things. I thought it was going to be boring, but it ended up fun”.

Before he applied for his job on Maple Street, Todd Webb put together a resume, which described his background like so: “Education — I have been going to school since I was 5. Now I am in the 6th grade with a “B” average. In elementary school, I was chosen Student of the Month twice, and have gotten a lot of awards. Work Experience— I have had many jobs: paper route for over a year. I baby-sit, I help my dad with his work, and I am very cooperative.”