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Popcorn with a Purpose a new social enterprise

PELC student Taylor Lott serves popcorn to a youngster at the Wellington Park Music Night.

PELC student Taylor Lott serves popcorn to a youngster at the Wellington Park Music Night.

The Prince Edward Learning Centre is now offering on-the-job training through PELC Pops, its new social enterprise.

PELC Pops, a student-run popcorn stand, gives participants a chance to learn skills related to small business, money math, and customer service in a supportive and safe environment. Students operate the stand in the community at various events.

PELC Pops Coordinator, Ashley Watson and PELC student, Domenic Boone served popcorn at the Belleville Pride event.

PELC Pops Coordinator, Ashley Watson and PELC student, Domenic Boone served popcorn at the Belleville Pride event.

“We found that a lot of our students were coming to us with very little employment or volunteer experience, for one reason or another, and yet were at a point in their lives where they needed to find employment to support themselves,” says Lori Farrington, PELC instructor “A lot of them also had some pretty significant anxiety issues and the idea of applying for a job was too daunting. It was a cycle that we didn’t see being broken, unless they were supported.”

It was good timing when the PEC Awesome Foundation put out a call for grant proposals. Farrington and two of her students, Ashley McInnis and Taylor Lott, pulled together a proposal and were thrilled to hear that they were invited to the Pitch Party. At the end of the night, they walked away with the $1,000 grant and PELC Pops was born.

This summer, PELC hired Ashely Watson as Popcorn Coordinator who has been mentoring students at events across the region.

“It’s been a great summer, and we’ll be continuing into the fall,” said Watson. “It’s inspiring to see changes in our students. They are really nervous for their first shift but as time goes on, they settle in and start to really enjoy it. One student was so afraid she’d make a mistake with the money, but at the end of the day, she was so much more confident and kept telling me how great it felt to understand how to make change for customers.”

Proceeds from PELC Pops go directly back into the social enterprise. Students earn their Food Handlers Certificate, as well as work on areas such as money math, customer service, and areas pertaining to running a small business.

“PELC Pops, is certainly popcorn with a purpose, but it should be noted that it’s not your average movie theatre popcorn. One taste will tell you that,” added Watson. “It’s made fresh with organic coconut oil and an organic ‘secret spice’ mixture supplied by Vicki’s Veggies.”

To keep things local, they have just made arrangements to use Sunnydale Farms kernels, grown in Waupoos.

“We are so happy to have the support of these two local farmers. It sets our popcorn apart from anything else you’ve tasted,” said Watson.

PELC has been “shining the light” on paths to learning for more than 18 years. The Learning Centre receives core funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development to provide Literacy and Essential Skills training to municipal residents. Students may be working on completing high school as an adult, upgrading English or math skills for college or apprenticeship programs, or they may be pursuing skills for better employment.

 

 

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