WALKER -- Business is officially open at Walker High.
The school unveiled four new on-campus businesses during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, March 7, continuing a string of improvements over the last few years aimed at furthering a student’s overall educational experience.
Walker High School administrators, teachers, and students, as well as local political and business leaders, attended the ribbon-cutting held on the newly expanded campus at 9677 Florida Blvd.
Together, they celebrated the additions of four brand-name businesses: Papa John’s, Neighbors Federal Credit Union, a Nike apparel store, and the Walk-On’s Conference Center. All of the businesses will be jointly operated by students and business professionals, and all will be open to both on-campus and off-campus customers.
This continues the stated mission of WHS Principal Jason St. Pierre to meet the needs of all students — those who will attend four-year universities and those who will dive immediately into the workforce post-graduation.
“We want to make sure that we’re educating and servicing our kids,” he said. “School to kids is boring, so we want to take that boring out of school and put relevant curriculums and programs in our schools so our kids can gain real-world experiences.”
At Papa John’s, customers will be treated to an assortment of pizzas, cheese sticks and desserts. The restaurant — which is located in the school’s former cafeteria and can sit 300 people — is open from 3-8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 1-8 p.m. on Saturday. It also features a buffet, the only one for Papa John’s nationwide.
Along with a paycheck, student workers also have the opportunity to earn credits for the school’s Pro-Start Culinary program. The restaurant opened earlier this year, but the 50 student workers have already impressed Dan Murphy, who manages the site.
“I would take each of these kids to to my stores in Baton Rouge,” Murphy said.
The Nike apparel store, open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, offers items such as backpacks, pullovers, jackets, polos, hats and T-shirts — most of which is decorated for Walker fans in the school’s green and gold colors with the Wildcat emblem.
Students are involved in all aspects of the Nike store’s operations, including accounting, marketing, stocking and designing the apparel. The store is also open for special events, such as athletic events, open house events, and student orientations.
The Neighbors Federal Credit Union branch is managed by Neighbors’ employees and staffed by students who have the chance to earn elective credits. The branch features all the same banking services of a regular branch, FCU Chief Operations Officer Greg Inman said, “except for drive-thru service.”
The branch’s hours of operation are 9-11 a.m. and 12-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and it also offers an Interactive Teller Machine (ITM), which allows customers to speak with an actual teller via video chat.
Located on the north side of the campus in the school’s old library, the Walk-On’s Conference Center is available to rent for events such as parties, banquets, and family gatherings. It has enough tables and seating to fit 110 people, along with video and audio equipment. Students will work an upcoming bridal shower to be held in the newly-renovated space.
The four companies paid for “100 percent” of the funds to install the on-campus businesses, St. Pierre said.
“It’s no cost to the taxpayer,” he said. “[The businesses] see the potential [our students] have, and they’re fully invested.”
St. Pierre said work is almost complete on the school’s Gerry Lane Paint and Body Shop, a 1,200-square-foot building on the east side of campus that will have two bays — one for holding the painting booth and the other for auto repair lessons. Additionally, the school offers classes in carpentry, drones, electricity, and welding.
Though Thursday’s ribbon-cutting was centered around Walker High’s vocational offerings, St. Pierre also pointed out the school’s academic offerings, which include 16 Advanced Placement courses, STEM programs and dual-enrollment classes.
St. Pierre said he doesn’t Walker High to be known as an school that focuses on academics or vocational skills — he wants it to be recognized as both.
“We want to train all of our students,” he said. “We want to make sure when they graduate and walk across that stage and I shake their hand, they have something in their hand that they can take to an employer. We want to be relevant for all of our students so we can send them off and they can get a well-paying job when they leave here.
“The main purpose of this is for students,” he added. “When students get to do practical, meaningful work, the student wins, and the community wins.”