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Briscoe Elementary students shop for family members at school

SAN ANTONIO – Hundreds of students at Briscoe Elementary are getting a chance to shop for their families this Christmas, thanks to a fifth-grade teacher and her holiday store.

The store, made possible by generous donations, has been serving students for 10 years.

Fifth grade teacher Renaii Ortiz said she initially started the shop 10 years ago as a way for students to pick out a little something for themselves, but she said it quickly became a way the students could shop for their families.

“Parents last year and the year before have told me that they really appreciate this project,” said Oritz. “Because in some cases, it’s the only gifts they have under the tree.”

Ortiz has also taken her shop a step further. Her students not only earn “Bear Bucks” throughout the year for good behavior, attendance and jobs around the classroom, but they also have their own checking accounts, where they deposit the money they have earned, earn interest and pay bills, like rent.

“They also pay rent in the classroom, which is a mere five dollars a week, but they learn the responsibilities of saving up their money,” said Ortiz. “Because they have opportunities to buy other privileged things like a no-homework pass.”

Fifth grade student Illeana Jimenez said one of her classroom “jobs” is working as a bank teller for her classmates. Jimenez said she knows her job is important.

“If we do something wrong, we can mess up a whole person’s bank account and the amount of money they have,” said Jimenez.

Ortiz said after reaching out to her neighbors at the River Crossing out in Spring Branch, the donations for gifts have more than doubled over the years and they have been able to open up the shop to more students. This year, they are expecting to serve more than 300 students.