Student business delivers baked potatoes |

Student business delivers baked potatoes

Jill Darby

One potato, two potato, three potato, four.

Jimmy Vaughn’s class at South Tahoe Middle School stumbled on success when it decided to get into the potato business.

“Couch Potatoes” is part of South Tahoe Middle School’s WorkAbility program, designed to prepare kids for the workforce and independent living.

Each Friday, the Couch Potatoes gang prepares and delivers baked potatoes with a plethora of topping options to staff members for a cost of $4 each. All proceeds from potato sales go toward a San Francisco field trip.

From chili and cheese to sour cream and chives, the kids insist there is a potato creation to suit any taste.

“You can just slap it all on there and mix it up and it’s good,” said Jerry Elder, 13. “About 15 years ago (Kathi) Jensen and (Mary) Palin started this with some other kids and they were going to San Francisco, too. I suggested the name Couch Potatoes to my class and it got the most votes.”

Vaughn oversees Couch Potatoes, but said the kids do most of the work for the business themselves.

“They do all of the bookkeeping, advertising, inventory and correspondence to keep the business going,” Vaughn said. “This reading, writing and math reinforces the academics learned in class and is very motivating because they’re making money.”

Couch Potato has made $1,037, and the money keeps coming in.

“The potato business also benefits them socially by teaching them to work together and the importance of treating our customers right,” Vaughn said. “The class is saving for a trip to San Francisco. Many of the students have never been to the city before. It’s a great experience all the way around.”

Each student in the mock company has a position. Bret Damron, 12, is the potato day coordinator.

“I tell people what we need to do and make sure everyone’s on task,” Damron said. “I pretty much just help the day go by smoothly.”

Eligibility to participate in Couch Potatoes is determined by a level system based on behavior and academics, but most of the kids said they work harder to get good grades so they can stay with the company.

“What I think is cool about this business is it just keeps growing and growing,” said 13-year-old Billy Tribble, marketing manager for Couch Potatoes. “My job is to print of fliers every week. I also have to set up catering jobs for staff meetings and interview teachers about the potato business over the phone.”

Couch Potatoes is funded by a workability grant through the state of California.

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