Student-fun Falcon Factory spreads Fairless school spirit

Posted on March 16, 2023

Falcon Factory
Falcon Factory
Falcon Factory

In partnership with The Repository, every Monday, Stark Community Foundation highlights positive happenings in our community. Here’s to Good News Mondays!

When COVID restrictions shut down field trips to local businesses, an intervention specialist and paraprofessionals at Fairless High School were determined to give their class of students with disabilities an opportunity to still learn valuable vocational skills.

They created the Falcon Factory, a student-run spirit shop that gives the 9-12 grade students hands-on experience running a business and developing employable skills. 

Currently, the class consists of 11 students guided by intervention specialist Susan Hanna, speech and language pathologist Michelle Pickett and paraprofessional Justin Cline, along with other paraprofessionals. 

What does the Fairless Falcon Factory do?

The Falcon Factory is structured similarly to other businesses, with teams of students who each have their own part in successfully running the shop. 

“I teach employability skills to all of our students with the goal of each individual becoming employed at a job they love that is suited to their unique abilities upon graduation,” said Hanna. “The responsibility of running the Falcon Factory is completely on the students. They make the decisions and do the work.”

The Falcon Factory, now a recipient of the Massillon WestStark Chamber of Commerce 2022 Student Business Development Plan Award and the 2023 Franklin B. Walter Outstanding Educator of Students with Disabilities Regional Award, started with a small sale of wristbands for Fairless High School students to purchase.

With the support of the community and school district, its growing list of products now includes T-shirts, night lights, keychains, greeting cards, stickers, window clings and holiday ornaments. 

Fairless students react

The Falcon Factory’s production is led by an assigned student manager who develops a unique wealth of leadership experience during the process.

The shop’s student manager is senior Katlyn Knapp. She leads meetings to remind the teams of safety techniques, assigns the day's tasks to her peers and answers any questions as the main point of contact. Knapp also leads the shop’s post-task meetings, where she shares compliments and troubleshoots any new problems to make future work experiences run smoothly.  

Knapp enjoys the opportunity of leading the group. She said, "I like selling wristbands and t-shirts. I learned how to sort and count money." 

"Falcon Factory is fun,” said sophomore and past student manager Waleili Gregory. “I like to sell merchandise that I made myself."

The Falcon Factory is strongly supported by its customer base of Fairless High School peers and staff. 

"These students are amazing,” said teacher Brian Schultz. “These are our Fairless students setting an example of school pride, harnessing creativity and developing entrepreneurial skills. All are lessons they'll keep for a lifetime."

As they plan new items to sell, the class learns what their customers are interested in buying through online merchandise surveys. The students gain experience in data collection and analysis, learning what colors and prices are right for their audience and customizing their items to match that demand. 

Last school year, the Falcon Factory was only selling wristbands when the data showed interest in spirit shirts and hoodies. With the profits they earned from wristband sales and support from community donors, the Falcon Factory was able to buy a T-shirt press and expand its inventory for this school year. Now, the students make T-shirts for various organizations, including the school’s Key Club, Student Council, Yearbook Club and track team.  

When asked about his friends who work in the Falcon Factory, freshman A.J. Soehnlen said, "I think it's inspiring. We know our purchase is helping our school."

After seeing the success and impact of the Falcon Factory, its next goal is to expand its services and create a student-run coffee shop at the high school for students and staff. 

“I am most proud of the growth in independence every student has developed,” said Hanna. “Every one of our students is able to use our cash register, demonstrates confidence when offering customer service and gets the opportunity to be a leader with a task they enjoy. The Falcon Factory is theirs.”

Learn more about the Falcon Factory and how you can support its initiatives by contacting Susan Hanna at 330-767-3444.

Share This Page