Seminole High Students Launch Cafe, Store in Bid to Keep Kids on Campus, Boost Pride

SEMINOLE — Two years ago, Seminole High School’s Academy of E-commerce’s first graduating class was tasked with creating an end-of-year project that would solve a problem at the school.

The academy’s first group of seniors launched an online store, the Warhawk Shop, to sell everything from school merchandise to tickets and fees for programs and events. It’s the first of its kind in Pinellas County, said William Scales, director of the academy.

Two years later, the online shop, which is maintained by students in the academy, offers 50 items and has topped more than $250,000 in sales.

With the success of the Warhawk Shop, Scales has asked each graduating class to create their own group project.

Their latest project, Wally’s Food Joint, launched March 4. The students worked with outside vendors, Food Services, the Seminole High School cafeteria and Pinellas County Schools to bring new lunch options to SHS students.

“We were told to go around the school and come up with a problem and then a solution to that problem,” said Sarah Coco, 18, a senior at SHS. “Kids leaving campus to go get food, that’s a major problem. It’s a safety issue. We want kids to stay on campus. Our solution was Wally’s Food Joint. This will increase meal counts in our cafeteria, keep kids safe and offer a variety of food options.”

The academy has partnered with three local eateries, the Breakfast Station, Broke N’ Bored Grill and Pipo’s, which will serve, respectively, a breakfast burrito, a chicken or pulled pork bowl or taco, and a turkey piccadillo burrito, during lunch hours at the SHS cafeteria, said Chase Wiley, 16, a junior. All items will be available for $3.50 to $4, which is in keeping with the price of other lunch options.

The e-commerce students worked on this project for a year leading up to the March 4 grand opening, Wiley said. It’s been a hands-on learning process, he added.

“What we’re doing is ordering food from vendors and delivering it here where it’s being served,” he said. “But it’s not quite as easy as catering a meal would be because of nutritional guidelines.”

Larger chains, he said, were less flexible and unable to change menu items to meet national school lunch guidelines.

“But small business owners could change their products and meet these national guidelines,” he said. “It took a while to really nail it down, though, and figure out these standards that we need to meet.”

Coco said they also wrote a 30-page business plan and surveyed SHS students to determine what options they might want to see in their school cafeteria.

“They wanted something different, something new, something fresh,” she said.

In addition to Wally’s Food Joint, the Academy of E-commerce will launch a second project, Warhawk Shop Plus, a brick-and-mortar shop inspired by the success of their online store, at the end of March.

The store will sell the most popular items sold on the web site as well as school supplies, said Hannah William, 16, a sophomore.

“One of the big problems, we feel, is a lack of school community,” she said. “We hope that this will increase our school spirit and create more of a high school community.”

The store, which will be open before and after school, and during lunch periods, is located near the main entrance to the school.

Scales said he’s “proud” of the students for creating both Wally’s Food Joint and Warhawk Shop Plus. SHS is the first and only school in the district to work with outside vendors, he added.

“It took high school kids to come up with the idea, to not hear the word no and to make it happen,” he said. “What better education than starting up a real business? It’s a great idea, but they learned that it’s not just snapping their fingers and it starts automatically.”