Mind Your Own Business
Students are operating banks and cafés in our public schools. Welcome to modern education. It’s the real word.
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Beginning with this year’s graduating seniors, all Delaware public school students must take three sequential courses in a Career Pathway in order to graduate. The requirement was part of more rigorous graduation requirements adopted by the Delaware State Board of Education in 2006. Career Pathways can be a Career and Technical Education Pathway, an Academically Focused Career Pathway, or a combination of the two.
Pathways options differ from school to school, but might include, for example, marketing, accounting, animal science, early childhood education, human resources, environmental engineering and national security. Naturally, not all Career Pathways have associated SBEs, but the teachers in charge of SBEs try to incorporate as many different pathways as they can.
The Cat Café (the school’s mascot is a jaguar) at Appoquinimink High School sells morning coffee and pastries daily to teachers as well as serving lunch in the café one day a week to teachers and one day to students. The café relies primarily on culinary arts students, who order the supplies, plan the menus, prepare the food and serve the meals. But culinary arts instructor Margaret Mann also has enlisted fashion students to help design the French-themed café’s decor and make the curtains. The school’s student-run laundry, Dirty Business, washes all the chef’s coats and aprons.
Alexis I. duPont high school business teachers Charles Schneider and Thomas Tabb solicit the talents of students in accounting, marketing and administrative services to run Tiger’s Den, the school store that opened three years ago. “We have made classes overlap with the school store so kids get to see their ideas put into practice,” Schneider says. A classroom marketing project, for example, required students to create a design to be used on T-shirts and sweatshirts and then to contact vendors to price out the product. One of the student-developed designs was selected to be put into production and sold at the store.
In addition to school-logo clothing and accessories, Tiger’s Den also sells school supplies and, in partnership with Wawa, snacks and drinks. Students do everything from deciding what and how much to stock to working the cash register to providing security. Up until now, teachers have been doing the hiring, but Schneider hopes in the future to put store managers in charge of that, too. Students enjoy working at the store so much, he adds, that they arrive at school before he does, as early as 6:45 a.m.
Ibukun Folarin, a sophomore at A.I. duPont, applied to work at the store because he wanted the experience. “It’s fast-paced,” he says. “You need to memorize the prices and know math really well, and you need to provide customer service.” While not the primary intent of SBEs, they do help students obtain after-school and summer jobs, students say. They also help students clarify career goals. A.I. sophomore and assistant store manager Anthony Brinkley says that he wants to be an entrepreneur and open a grocery or convenience store in an underserved area.
Tiger’s Den, like many school stores, is run as a DECA enterprise. DECA is a 60-year-old nonprofit organization that seeks to prepare high school and college students for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. A.I.’s store recently learned that it had achieved DECA Silver Status.
The students who run Appoquinimink High School’s store, Apponings, recently prepared an 80-page operating manual in order to achieve their own DECA certification. “I look at the school store as being a laboratory for our classroom, just like if we were in a chemistry lab,” says Appoquinimink High marketing teacher and school store adviser Monique Riddick.
SBEs are an excellent way for students to apply the academic lessons they are learning in class as well as to learn soft skills such as teamwork and time management, Stoner-Torbert says. They also expose students to issues that are important in running many kinds of businesses, everything from pricing and promotion to customer relations and employee management.
“The application of the skills they are learning is the critical piece,” Marchio says. “The only way that we will save high schools is to make learning relevant and deliver it in such a way that students can apply what they learn.”