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New school supplies vending machine meets Haile Middle students' needs

The students stock some items in the machine and learn basic business lessons about cost of production and return.

Students like seventh graders Jayden Lavalle and Kiley Nowaczyk have fun creating items and determining what to sell in the vending machine.
Students like seventh graders Jayden Lavalle and Kiley Nowaczyk have fun creating items and determining what to sell in the vending machine.
Photo by Liz Ramos
  • East County
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In the corner of Carlos E. Haile Middle School’s cafeteria, there’s a vending machine available for students. 

But rather than snacks and food options, students can purchase school supplies, flash drives, phone chargers and items digital arts students make in class. 

Katelyn Reyes, an arts and technology teacher, and Jessica Jones, an agriscience teacher, worked together to get a $4,000 grant to purchase and fill the vending machine, which was installed at the school last October.

“We were just brainstorming and wanted to make sure we could provide the kids with supplies because we’re tired of hearing they don’t have pencils or paper,” Jones said. “Why not make it easier on the parents and us? They can send their kid with money to purchase the items they need.”

Reyes and Jones said the vending machine is the first of its kind in Manatee County and is almost like a school store. 

Besides the typical school supplies, Reyes’ digital arts students have the opportunity to show their artistic abilities through the vending machine as in class they put their personal twist on items including stickers, keychains, shirts, water bottles, buttons and more. 

They create what they see is popular among students. For example, students saw their classmates putting stickers on their water bottles and decided to make stickers they could sell in the vending machine. 

“It’s fun watching them be excited about something," Jones said. "Core classes are important, but they need to have that excitement and some type of fulfillment while they’re at school. It’s nice to see how they’re wanting to participate in our career and technical classes.”

The vending machine sells a variety of school supplies to make it easier for students to have access to what they need for class.
Photo by Liz Ramos

Reyes has a new 3D printer for her class, so her students are planning to add Jibbitz, which are like buttons for Crocs.

“Slowly but surely we’re adding more as we go,” she said.

Reyes and Jones are reaching out to students to see the top five items students would like to see in the vending machine. Jones said some of the items include paint pens, T-shirts and phone chargers. 

“I love seeing them think outside the box about what they think other students would like to purchase and get excited about seeing someone else wear what they’ve made,” Reyes said. 

Reyes said besides the art skills her students are learning, students are learning about the financial aspect of the vending machine. Students have to look at how much it costs for them to make products, how much labor goes into making them and how much a product should be worth before determining how much to charge.

All profits from the vending machine are used to refill the machine.

“With us doing this, it wasn’t just to help benefit us or our classes but make sure products are available to the students while teaching them about financial literacy since that’s being pushed really heavily in high school,” Reyes said. “Students are taking out loans left and right for school, and they don’t understand living beyond their means, so why not start at the middle school level and try to help them with financial literacy.”



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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