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Starbucks (No, not that one)

I am a firm believer in being involved in my kids school. Showing them you are engaged and supporting the teachers and administrators that work hard to give your child a good education benefits everyone and is leading by example. I've worn many hats over the years with the various schools my kids have attended. One that I always looked forward to was operating the rewards program for Gashland Elementary. Alexander, Phaedra and Bridget all attended this school (there is still a photo of Alex in the lobby in fact) and the staff there hold a special place in my heart.

The current principle started the same year that Alex began Kindergarten and as such she has known my family for 13+ years through 3 of my kids and even a few of their half-siblings (through my ex). Mrs Lakin has always been helpful, kind but firm, hard working and open minded so when she asked me to run the "Starbucks" program I didn't hesitate to accept. The mascot for the school is a star so everything is themed that way from "Super Star Kids" to "The star of the show" and when it came time to name their rewards program "Starbucks" made sense neverminded the coffee behemoth with the same name.

The school only houses Kindergarten and 1st grade students so it is small by most standards with just two main hallways, one for each grade. We printed off a number of small laminated strips of paper with the school icon and the words "One Starbuck, Redeemable for Cool Stuff" on each. The teachers would be issued a large reservoir of these and when a student did something they wanted to positively reinforce they would issue them a Starbuck. The kids would be encouraged to save these up and then every Friday I would roll around with a small cart filled with prizes. I often had help from other parents and we would each pitch in a variety of items for the kids to shop for.

We had low level prizes like pencils and stickers but also matchbox cars, slap bracelets, foam knickknacks and more. Basically the things you would expect from the glass case at a Chuck-E Cheese. Each item had to be approved by the principle and if kids got out of hand with them (like the buckets of slime) they got pulled. Additionally we negotiated higher end prizes like lunch with the principle (which is still cool at their age), silly hat day (yes we provided the hats), making the morning announcements and more.

Each child was asked to arrive with their Starbucks counted so they knew how much they could buy and a small form we provided circling their item or reward of choice. We would count their tickets and help out the inevitable indecisive kids for each class before moving on to the next one. Occasionally a kid would discover they were off and didn't have enough tickets so I would fudge the numbers and wink at the kid who gave a secretive smile of appreciation.

While I was doing this for Bridget (and her siblings before her) I made friends with many of the kids as I was always a welcome site, after all I was the guy with all the toys! By the end I was well known and it was quite sad the last Friday of Bridget's 1st grade year when I handed the rains off to another fresh parent. I got hugs and applause from many classrooms and an oven mitt for my "helping hand" (still in use in my kitchen today). None of those kids ever learned my name, I was always "<Insert one of my kids names>'s Dad" but I will still occasionally see one of them at a store or restaurant and get a knowing smile. That always makes my day.


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