What's the scoop? Middle school ice cream club isn't slowing down
Jr. Scoop is not the average middle school club. Thirty-four students from Inza R. Wood Middle School comprise the club, which has become one of the leading ice cream businesses in the region.
One of the greatest things about Jr. Scoop is that all the money the club earns goes straight back into the schools.
Jr. Scoop brought in about $70,000 last year, according to advisor Jordan Scoggins, and the kids who work so hard to earn it all don't see a dime of the profits. But they couldn't be happier with that arrangement. The positive community impact and occasional free ice cream are payment enough for the Jr. Scoopers.
"Jr. Scoop is really fun to do in your free time and you get to raise money for good causes at the same time," eighth-grader and senior kitchen manager, Sean Colyer said.
Colyer loved Jr. Scoop so much in fact, that even after he transferred from Wood to Meridian Creek Middle School after his sixth -grade year, he decided to stay a part of Jr. Scoop, traveling out to Jr. Scoop's kitchen at Boones Ferry Primary three days a week.
The causes to which Jr. Scoop puts its earnings are completely up to the students.
"We have an open proposal system," Scoggins said. "You can write up a proposal and it goes to the student executive team."
The student executive team then reviews the proposals and decides which ones will be granted money. In the past money has gone to helping students cover the cost of the sixth -grade outdoor school camp, the eighth-grade trip to Washington D.C., new instruments for the music department, new bikes for the Wellness program and "whatever the kids deem worthy of their hard-earned money," Scoggins said.
Jr. Scoop operates as a membership-based ice cream company. Members can sign up online or with a Jr. Scoop worker and place monthly orders to be picked up any Thursday of the month at Boones Ferry Primary. The club also scoops up cones and dishes at several community events throughout the year.
One of the things that has allowed Jr. Scoop to be so successful is that the kids work with the maturity of adults well beyond their years, but with the heart and spirit of regular middle schoolers.
This dichotomy of ages is evident on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings in the kitchen at Boones Ferry Primary, which is filled with loud music, shouts and laughter but running like a well-oiled machine. The middle schoolers keep the kitchen meticulously clean and use the same organizational and safety practices found in any restaurant kitchen.
The students on Jr. Scoop's design team create design the shirts, hats, aprons and a graphic on the Jr. Scoop trailer.
The finance team keeps track of the club's money.
"Here are these 11-14 year-olds learning how to do QuickBooks (account managing software for businesses) and they get really good at QuickBooks in three years," Scoggins said.
The impressive work habits don't stop there. As Jr. Scoop members pull up to Boones Ferry to pick up their orders on Thursday afternoon, students run the customers' order out to their car.
But the quality of the business is perhaps most evident in the ice cream itself.
"When we first started pricing our ice cream, people would say 'um, kids made this,' but we're not cheap ice cream,'" Scoggins said.
And cheap it is not. Jr. Scoop uses a $10,000 machine and a $26,000 machine to churn its ice cream and freezes it in the same blast freezer used by any reputable ice creamery. Middle schoolers don't make $70,000 a year selling average ice cream.
This commitment to quality is how Jr. Scoop got to be served at Baby Doll Pizza in Portland and at events across the metro area, and how the club reached a membership of over 200 loyal customers.
Over the summer, though, Wood's administration decided the club didn't need to be such a large-scale operation. Assistant Principal Joey King worried Scoggins was stretched too thin with all he was trying to do.
"We were within weeks of signing a deal with Nike to serve out there. We were doing events all over the region," Scoggins said. "And then the administration said, no 'we're pulling you back in. We only want you to do West Linn-Wilsonville.'"
The club that started eight years ago as a handful of students, Scoggins and his little Cuisinart ice cream machine decided it didn't need to serve ice cream all over the region. While it is a business, and a very successful one at that, at it's core Jr. Scoop is a middle school club.
While Jr. Scoop has scaled back, it's not slowing down. Scoggins knows what these kids are capable of.
"These guys have a chance to prove that 11-14 year-olds are worth something and they can do a lot."
Cassidy Yorg, the seventh-grader who can be found running ice cream orders out to cars as soon as she recognizes the customer, said her favorite part about Jr. Scoop is "It feels like you're actually working at a job. And the ice cream."
While they may take on the responsibilities of adults while working, the kids of Jr. Scoop are still just middle schoolers and Jr. Scoop is a place for
them to have fun and make friends.
Eighth-grader Dane Willson likes Jr. Scoop because he enjoys talking to the people that come pick up their ice cream. "And it's the only place I get to see Cassidy and John Paul," he said.