At North Central High School’s balloon shop, Dreams Inflate, the student workers are bracing for the Halloween rush.
Last year, Valentine’s Day was so busy they had to set up an assembly line to keep up with demand.
The balloon shop, which operates solely within the school, is part of North Central’s special education program and it’s managed by North Central teacher Mark Anderson.
“It’s been around for about six years,” Anderson said. “It helps the students gain life and job skills they can use outside of school.”
It’s a simple concept: anyone at North Central can place an order for balloons to be delivered to someone at North Central. A bouquet of five balloons is $5 and there are lots of Mylar balloon designs to pick from, as well as latex balloons of many colors – including one that reads NC.
Halli Jones is a 10th-grader who’s on her second year at Dreams Inflate. She said the most difficult thing about balloon shop is to teach the new people.
“You have to show them how everything is done, how to use the helium and tie up the balloons,” Jones said.
The students are in charge of every aspect of the business, including balloon inventory and ordering, as well as of keeping track of incoming orders and payments.
Jones said the biggest challenge is to keep the balloons from blowing away.
“It happens sometimes,” she said, “and sometimes they pop.”
This year’s balloon shop is staffed by 17 students from ninth and 10th grade.
Balloon shop profits are used for field trips and social events, like dances.
Anderson said the students learn to work together, be organized and pay attention to detail.
“And we can help them put together a résumé when they are done here,” Anderson said.
So, what kind of reaction do the students get when they deliver a bouquet of balloons?
“Mostly happy and surprised, and sometimes embarrassed,” said Jones, laughing. “It’s fun.”