The Student Vendor Experience

Photo of Street Sense Vendors posing with students from St. Andrews Episcopal School. The students are wearing Street Sense Vendor Vests.

Vendors Carlton Johnson, Reggie Black and Jeffery McNeil get ready to go out with a group of students from St. Andrews. Photo by Street Sense Media

During winter and spring breaks, Street Sense hosts several student groups through its Vendor for a Day program. The students spend about 30 minutes learning about Street Sense and then spend about 90 minutes trying to sell Street Sense with a vendor or two.  

The comments below are from a group of students from St. Andrews Episcopal School just before Christmas. 

By Anne Mercer 

Today in Service Learning we went to help sell Street Sense. Our job was to go on a street corner and sell the newspaper. I really enjoyed this trip and learned a lot.  

When we first were in our two–person groups I was with Victoria and we were very nervous asking people to buy our merchandise. We would start talking but it would be very quiet so no one could hear us.  

As this approach did not work, we started to say it louder and we developed a routine. I would start off by saying, “Would you like to help the homeless?” and then Victoria would say, “It’s only one dollar.” When we said this we realized that people were actually listening and some people were interested. As this went on we started having a really good time and sometimes we would even dance! As we became more and more friendly, more and more people would stop and buy what we had to sell.  

Before we started I was worried people would be really mean to us. But there was only one time when I was nervous. That was when a group of guys were saying things to us that we would have rather they not say.  

I thought this trip was a good way to help our community and I had so much fun while doing it. Not only did I have fun but I learned a lot. I learned that the people who are willing to donate are not the ones that look so rich. I also found that saying “No, we are not interested” is much better than saying “no” or just walking away. From now on I am never going to walk by someone who is talking to me and not acknowledge that they exist. I think that when I have a chance I will volunteer there again! 

By Tommy Finton 

On Wednesday our class went to downtown D.C. to sell newspapers for Street Sense. I was excited for the trip because I pictured myself dancing around and screaming, telling people to buy the paper. When we finally got there we went inside the church where the Street Sense headquarters were and we talked a bit about the newspaper. Once we got our newspapers and our Street Sense vests we headed out to the street. A Street Sense vendor, a homeless person, stationed people, including myself, on the D.C. street corners.  

As I said before, I thought it would be easy to sell the papers. I was wrong. I was so nervous to sell the newspapers to people. Everyone on the streets seemed like they were extremely busy and had no time for anything. It took me about ten minutes to finally bottle up the courage to ask a person if they wanted to buy the newspapers. Just as I expected, they said, “No, thank you,” and kept on walking. My first sell came when I went up to an old person and asked him if he wanted to learn about the homeless. He said nothing to me, gave me a dollar, took the paper, and kept on walking. I was very pleased that I sold a newspaper.  

My second sale came when a man walked out of the Corner Bakery. He asked me when the bus was going to come. I noticed his Spanish accent, so I told him in Spanish. I am a very good Spanish speaker so we started to talk in Spanish. We kept on talking about Street Sense, how much Spanish I knew, and my school. I think I made him really happy by talking in Spanish.  

When the bus finally came I asked him if he wanted a paper. He was very sincere and gave me a dollar and took a paper. After about five more minutes we went back to the church and turned in our gear and money. We then left the church and went back to school.  

This was by far my favorite trip in this course. We went on the streets and talked with people. We raised awareness of homelessness and we got money as well. I hope that next trimester’s class can do this as well. I loved it. 

By Chris Maves 

Today the Service Learning class visited the offices of Street Sense and helped sell papers with the vendors. When we arrived at the Street Sense headquarters we found out it is the same place we stayed for our YSOP (Youth Service Opportunity Project) trip last year. After we entered the church we passed through the same locked doors and went straight into a small conference room. There we were briefed on the rules and got a few tips on how to sell the papers.  

The tips that were really helpful were the ones we learned from the vendors. In the beginning of the briefing there was only one vendor, but as we left the room they were able to round up another vendor, who turned out to be our supervisor.  

We then headed out in our bright yellowish green vests and completely fitted with a guide, a group, and a stack of papers. My group headed off towards Metro Center but eventually stopped around the Warner Theatre. Fortunately, I did not have to become familiar with the area, because it was near my mom’s office and my sister danced The Nutcracker there every year for the past three years. The only thing I had to get used to was walking up to strangers and trying to strike up a conversation.  

This was not as hard as I thought it would be. It was almost like asking someone to dance at a school dance. After a few rejections I got used to it, and started focusing on the buys, like our supervisor had told us.  

Part way through the time we were selling, another street vendor came up but he was not selling papers. He was trying to promote and raise donations for a non–violence basketball tournament. He was very nice and showed me a little more about working the streets. One of the things he most emphasized was how this training for talking to complete strangers would help us talk to other people later in life. He added a little bit of comedy to my work time. He would ask a woman if she would help his cause, and if she denied him he would ask for her phone number.  

The reactions of the people he approached were priceless.  

I believe that if you become comfortable and bolder, selling the papers becomes easier. When our shift ended, Justin, Adam, and I had made more than $23 as a team. Justin and I both think we will be coming back to Street Sense and volunteering for more community service hours 

Issues |Education|Youth

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