Teen using lemons to make more than lemonade

VINCENT – Jason and Lana Johnson would gladly buy their daughter Lakia a new dress for her eighth-grade graduation next year.

But Lakia, 14, insists on doing it herself.

“She really likes to be in control,” Jason Johnson, 43, said at the family’s Vincent home.

“Responsible,” piped up Lakia.

Diagnosed with Down syndrome soon after birth, Lakia has attended regular classes throughout her time at Barlow-Vincent Elementary School and enjoyed great support from the faculty, fellow students and the community, her father said. That held true again Saturday when she set up a lemonade stand at her grandparents’ house and raised $125.50 for her celebratory dress.

“She’s big on growing up right now,” Johnson said. “And she thinks that’s a part of growing up, that you buy your own clothes.”

It helped that she was peddling her wares during a community yard sale in the Lewis Pointe neighborhood, and that she got a marketing boost from her mom on Facebook. But that didn’t stop Lakia from putting in the work, personally serving every cup of approximately 12 gallons of lemonade and holding up a sign that said “Please stop” and dancing to get the attention of potential customers.

Among them was Kelly Venham, Lakia’s third-grade teacher and a friend of the family. She brought her mother along and told her to pay special attention to Lakia’s independent streak.

“(Lakia) was shooing her mom to go away so she could do it all herself,” Venham recalled.

Venham said she was impressed by Lakia’s work ethic and willingness to get up early and set everything up.

“She was not being talked out of it whatsoever,” she said.

Lakia’s enthusiastic efforts caught the eye of one of the sale’s organizers, who asked her to come back next year.

“I asked my Dad, ‘You shake her hand,'” Lakia said of sealing the deal for her return engagement. “He’s my lawyer,” she added with a laugh.

Lakia knew about the eighth-grade promotion ceremony after her older brother went through it in 2012. She got the idea for a lemonade stand from a pair of movies – “Ramona and Beezus” and “Another Cinderella Story” – both of which involve characters trying to earn money selling lemonade.

And once his “headstrong” daughter got that idea, she wasn’t letting it go, Johnson said.

“She got it stuck in her head, and she would not leave us alone,” he said.

“I need it bad,” Lakia interjected.

Lakia and her parents assembled her lemonade stand from extra boards they had and painted it pink and blue – her favorite colors. She sold lemonade for 50 cents and toffee for 75, and had very little of either left over by the time she closed down.

Her favorite part of the experience was doing the work to get the stand ready and serve her customers, Lakia said. She also proudly described how she helps out around the house, cleaning windows and folding laundry.

Lakia already knows she wants to get a blue dress and accent it with flowers. Her mother told her they would pick it out after Christmas.

And Lakia said there’s no chance she’ll be tempted to spend the money on something else in the meantime.

“If she says she’s waiting on a dress, she’ll wait on a dress,” Jason Johnson said. “She doesn’t like to spend her money. She’ll spend Dad’s money.”