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Student-run gift shop wins gold, aims for international recognition
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The Lanier Charter Career Academy at the Oaks complex has a student-run store, design business, cafe, bistro, meetings and events center and Get Gifted, an award-winning gift store. - photo by NAT GURLEY

It may not be the Olympics, but the Get Gifted gift shop at The Oaks at Lanier Charter Career Academy has gone for gold.

“I was excited,” store co-manager Jonathan Zuniga, 18, said. “It took a lot of work pulling everything together, so it was great to get the news.”

For the first time in its five-year history, the store has earned gold-level certification.

The award comes from DECA, an international association that promotes entrepreneurship among high school and college students. It comes through the group’s school-based enterprise program.

Zuniga and Get Gifted will be honored at the International Career Development Conference of the organization in May in Atlanta.

“It means basically that we meet all of the standards that are set forth,” said lead teacher Joni Cochran. “There’s a whole process that makes us look at our operations as a whole, (and) our financials. We put that all into a manual about our store.”

Zuniga said the process looked at everything, from merchandise to bookkeeping, down to how neat and organized students keep the store.

The gift shop shouldn’t be confused with a school store — it’s an authentic store, offering a variety of items from snacks to jewelry.

“We have kids’ toys, and we also have more modern stuff like for young ladies,” said store co-manager Cazzandra Covarrubias, 17. “Mostly, the other school (Lanier Career Academy) comes in here during lunchtime and they purchase snacks and drinks.”

With an operational restaurant and cafe on either side of the store, there is a good mix of outside residents coming in as well to purchase items. Cochran said the kids’ toys were popular around Christmas, as teachers came in to purchase last-minute gifts.

The store, at 2723 Tumbling Creek Road, off Atlanta Highway in Oakwood, is open to the public during regular school hours. Cochran and Zuniga both said there will be a rush on items, such as balloons, for the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday.

“Our daily sales average about $130,” Cochran said. Around 400 people, both students and adults, walk through the store on a weekly basis.

Along with being honored in May, Zuniga will present the store information at both the state and international levels of the DECA competition.

“Only gold-certified school-based enterprises get to go and do the presenting,” Cochran said. “You can actually place at an international level for your business.

“We would just like people to know that we are open to the public,” she added. “We do a lot of special customer service things. We’ll do (special ordering). And typically our prices are cheaper and are tax-free.”

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