Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Student T-Shirt Biz Moves To Downtown

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Champion City High School seniors John Gallagher and Justin Baptiste smiled and talked to the steady stream of customers at Merian’s Tuxedos who stopped in for the grand opening of Wonder T's—a corner inside Merian’s where students have expanded a growing T-shirt selling business that began as a school project.
“Come by and see us. Check out what we have,” said Justin Baptiste, a senior at Champion High School where Wonder T’s was launched.
A steady stream of customers visited the store last Thursday, April 14, after tuxedo shop co-owner John Merian, Mayor Linda Balzotti and other city and school officials officially opened Wonder T’s new location at high noon with a ribbon cutting.
Among the steady stream who visited Wonder T’s to buy student-designed “Champion City” logo T-shirts, shorts, sweatshirts and sweatpants were Anne DiCicco and Carey Newton, teachers at Raymond Elementary School. (Pictured above)
Both teachers said they wanted to support the students and went to buy Brockton-centric workout and city-spirit wear. Prices range from $8 for a short-sleeve T-shirt to $25 for a long-sleeve sweatshirt.
Newton said on the one hand she was delighted to find one of her former students, Champion High senior John Gallagher (Pictured below with Newton) helping to lead the way for Wonder T’s opening, but on the other she realized her former 5th grade reading student was only months away from attending college.
“I feel old,” Newton chuckled.
Adrienne Niccoli, an English teacher at Champion High School said students have been responsible for nearly all of the work associated with getting the corner shop inside Merian’s open: including inventory, stocking, marketing, public relations and as of last Thursday—sales and sales reconciliation.
“They’ve learned so much and we’ve only just opened,” Niccoli said.
All profits from Wonder T’s goes back into the business, students and officials said.
Champion High School is an alternative high school that focuses on School to Career curriculum and houses the B.B. Russell High School and the Eldon B. Keith Center.
Since receiving a grant in 2010 from the Brockton Area Workforce Investment Board to open a silkscreen shop at the Keith Center with donated supplies and equipment, the students who work-and-learn business skills through Wonder T’s have steadily branched out from just learning how to use the silk screen machine to seeking and getting orders for work—including printing T-shirts for youth basketball teams, the Brockton Youth Council and an upcoming order for practice shirts for Brockton High School’s wrestling team.
Wonder T’s latest growth spurt has now leaped into Merian’s on Main Street as part of a Downtown Work and Learn internship program with downtown businesses and the schools, but for students like Baptiste and Gallagher, the chance to gain real-world skills is a priority.
“We’ll do work for anyone it’s not just Champion City stuff. We’ll design and print anything you want—conceptual, teams, a logo…,” Baptiste said, noting he does much of the art and design work—including working on the “Champion City” logo on the T-shirts, shorts and other merchandise at the newly opened Merian’s location.
Baptiste, who plans to attend Bridgewater State University as a business management major, said the best thing about Wonder T’s has been learning how to use a silk screen machine because it’s a way to make money from his artistic creations—either for Wonder T’s or maybe on his own someday, somewhere because people everywhere like T-shirts and great designs.
“It’s a learning experience all the way around,” Baptiste said.
(Ribbon cutting photo courtesy Champion High School)

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