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Students at Salinas Elementary in Donna are learning how to become responsible, productive and successful citizens in their community, thanks to their Minitropolis Program.

The program, which is celebrating its third anniversary, mirrors a fully functional real-life community where the students are in charge. The mini-city is called Salinasville. This year, the school added a component to the program – a Job Fair.

The Job Fair consisted of 17 businesses. Some of the companies represented were Walmart, HEB, Peter Piper Pizza and International Bank of Commerce. Others were governmental entities like the Department of Treasury and U.S. Postal Service. Specific careers were also promoted including librarians, nurses and peace officers. Booths were set up at the school’s cafeteria to give students an opportunity to visit them and learn about the jobs being offered.

“The idea was to expose the students to the different businesses and have them hear what they’re about from the former student employees who held positions in those companies the previous year,” Salinas Elementary Principal San Juanita Franco said. “The jobs are catered to the different grade levels ranging from PK-5. While the younger students may not be able to apply to some of them, they are looking forward to working at HEB when they get to fourth grade and IBC Bank when they reach fifth grade. They are very excited.”

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Students will be given an opportunity to apply for positions of their liking and be called in for interviews. In October, they will receive a letter notifying them if they were selected for employment. Those hired will undergo a series of training from real employees of the company so they can learn their responsibilities.

“When the students apply for a job, they are given expectations,” Franco said. “We tell them that they have to be model citizens. They have to come to school every day, behave and get good grades. That gets them motivated and they want to apply for a good job like a manager. It’s powerful in a sense that it’s a win-win for both our students and our school.”

Franco said the businesses selected to take part in the program work closely with the school to help make Salinasville a success. “We partner with these businesses and they in turn provide uniforms and training for the students,” Franco said. “They also give us donations like cookies, chips and party favors to stock in our stores. The students are then able to buy the items with Salinasville Sailor Bucks they earned while working in the positions they were hired.”

On Nov. 3, Salinasville will open its doors for business every Friday at the end of the school day. “The whole idea about Salinasville is to expose students to the different careers,” Franco said. “But, it also strengthens their communication skills and builds their self-esteem. They learn how to talk in front of audiences and hold a job. These real-life experiences will help them in the future when they go out to explore the different job opportunities.”

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Franco said the school initially sought out to implement the Minitropolis Program because the campus was losing students to charter schools. Now, the school uses the Salinasville concept to keep and recruit students. “A parent told me she was planning on moving but the children didn’t want to leave because the school they were going to didn’t have a mini-city,” Franco said. “The experience that the children went through made a difference for that parent. So, the parent decided to stay.”

Fifth grade students Yazlin Muro and Audrey Segovia are proud to be a part of Salinasville. “I love it,” Muro said. “It’s helping me decide what I want to do when I grow up and with my personal life.”

“It’s fun for me to work as a nurse and get a head start in what I want to do as a career,” Segovia said. “I love helping people.”

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