At Roy P. Benavidez Elementary School Thursday, students watched for potential customers in the shade of an awning, while simultaneously checking their supplies of ice, cups, straws, and Jumex juice. As soon as a car entered the parking lot, they excitedly announced the arrival of a customer and got into position.

Every student had a job. One filled the small plastic cups with ice, while another poured the Hawaiian Punch. Another student asked customers if they preferred a slice of fresh lemon or strawberry in their beverages and — for a San Antonio twist — added a splash of chamoy. The finishing touch was a colorful, bendy straw and a bottle of Jumex juice. It all cost $4.

Benavidez Elementary was one of three South San Antonio Independent School District campuses where elementary students operated lemonade stands Thursday as part of Lemonade Day, a global youth entrepreneurship program that teaches leadership and business skills. The 100 participating students are enrolled in the education nonprofit San Antonio Youth‘s Out-of-School Time summer program, which is intended to keep students engaged in learning outside of school.

“It was exciting because we actually got to talk to people and sell them something,” Elizabeth Otero, 10, said.

Elizabeth said she learned the importance of being friendly and polite. Edileen Rocha, 9, said she always smiled when talking to a customer, and Sebastian Moreno, 11, said he liked talking to people and asking them questions about what they wanted.

“I just like to help,” he said.

The three sites hit $1,000 in combined sales, and the students will decide how to spend the money, said Christina Casella, SA Youth chief development officer. They could split up the money amongst themselves, pool the money to buy something or donate the dollars, or they could do a combination of donating and spending on their own.

At each location, the students decided how they wanted to operate their stands, which helped them develop a sense of entrepreneurship and sharpen their decision-making skills, said David Goree, SA Youth’s curriculum specialist for elementary. They chose what beverage to serve and how to dress it, and they set a price they thought was fair for their work and that customers would pay. SA Youth staff kept track of the money, and teachers helped make signs to advertise the stands.

South San ISD students operate a lemonade stand outside of Roy Benavidez Elementary School Thursday.
South San ISD students operate a lemonade stand outside of Roy P. Benavidez Elementary School Thursday. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

Goree said it was important to let the students make those decisions so they could learn about the economic skills of price and costs, how to make a profit and how to save money. He initially thought $4 was too expensive for a cup of Hawaiian Punch and a Jumex juice, but no customers scoffed at the price.

“That’s really the best practice as far as learning, is to let kids make safe decisions, and if it doesn’t work out, then let them readjust and try again,” he said.

During one customer interaction, Goree took a $20 bill from a woman who had bought four cups, or $16 worth. He turned to Ariana Méndez, 9, and asked how much change he should give back. She quickly replied, “$4.”

Not only does Ariana like math, but she also said she liked serving customers Thursday. She always would introduce herself to people when they arrived, and when they left, she would thank them for buying a drink and wish them a good day.

“You need to be patient,” Ariana said. “It’s all about customers.”

Goree said the big takeaway he wanted students to get from Lemonade Day was “agency.”

“Kids can do something that matters. They can make an event where people get something,” he said. “It feels good to be able to do something that counts. I hope they’re also excited about making money, but I think they just like the serving. Often, kids are on the sidelines or doing something to keep them amused. They’re actually doing something that counts.”

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Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum covered education for the San Antonio Report.