PLYMOUTH, Minn. - Some Minnesota middle school students are running a restaurant Wednesday, thrown into the fire over the busy lunch hour.
It’s part of a small business managing project called the Wooden Spoon restaurant.
On most days, customers know it as the Rock Elm Tavern in Plymouth.
But on Wednesday, for a couple of hours, guests will see a team of West Suburban Summer School kids running the place.
"Hello, my name is Elijah. I'm going to be your server today," said Elijah Koopman as he tried the career on for size.
"I always thought it would be cool to be a server," Koopman said.
The project first launched in 1997 with the late Suzanne Graft, a teacher in the Wayzata School District. As a fifth-grade teacher, she introduced a small business managing project called Graft’s Grill.
Guest speakers would come and share their business-starting knowledge. Then, the students ran a café for a night. The profits they earned were used to buy groceries that were then donated to the IOCP (Interfaith Outreach Community Partners), a nonprofit organization that helps people who need transportation, clothes, food and shelter.
Graft passed away on Jan. 27, 2010, due to cancer. She had hopes of re-launching Graft's Grill.
In 2011, her wish came true. The program was renamed the Wooden Spoon and offered as a one-week class at West Suburban Summer School.
"I've never really done anything like this," server-for-a-day Koopman said. "It was just kind of scary because it's like a real restaurant and I don't want to mess up."
West Suburban Summer School teacher Samantha Heitke said the program is about more than just trying out a job for a couple of hours.
"I really believe that it's teaching kids important lessons, introducing them to the idea of small businesses or helping them see the hard work that goes into them," she said.
And although it's only for a limited time, customers say they'll be coming back the next time the Wooden Spoon opens up.
"They did a great job," said one happy customer. "Do they cook it, too?”
The owners of the Rock Elm Tavern are donating 25 percent of the money made from this project to Interfaith Outreach Community Partners. On Wednesday they raised $1,115. The kids will use that money to buy groceries later this week and donate them to the nonprofit on Friday.
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