As 16-year-old Chris Hartman punched orders for Egg McMuffins into his cash register, he was seizing a golden opportunity: learning job skills that should benefit him for life.
Hartman is among the 180 teenagers scooping fries and wrapping Big Macs at Camp Mickey D's, a collaboration between local McDonald's owners and 14 high schools.
The Churchill student's reason for getting up early every day for the first week of his summer vacation was simple.
"I want a job and car, basically," he said.
Although the teen job market has improved since the beginning of the recession, the search can still be challenging.
So Camp Mickey D's is teaching -- for free -- strategies for workplace success.
"We're finding out more and more from industries that kids aren't ready for jobs," said Barbara White, with NEISD's Careers and Technology studies.
Eleanor Perez, 16, said she was learning practical work skills, "like how to make French fries, how to deliver at the drive-through and like how to make the food."
But the lessons go well beyond burgers and shakes.
Students are taught a wide range of skills, including how to interact with people, how to solve problems and how to fill out a job application.
"They are learning hospitality, how to greet a customer, things they can take into most any job you would ever have," said White.
Churchill High School junior Alecia Smith said the most valuable things she had learned at the week-long camp were teamwork and to be respectful.
"Have a positive attitude, even if the customer isn't," she said. "You still have to be nice," she said, because the customer is always right.
Camp Mickey D's is free to participating students who are informed about the camp through their teachers and guidance counselors.
Those interested in bringing Camp Mickey D's to their schools in 2013 should contact Johnny Vahalik at 210-422-7650 or Sybel Pici at 210-218-8947.