Entrepreneurship program creates spark in students at alternative school

It’s not often that students in an alternative school setting take initiative for their own learning, but the entrepreneurship program made possible through a 4-H Participation Fee Grant is creating that desire in students at the Sunrise Academy High School in Elk Rapids. Young people at the high school are learning to be business owners of the future through a program introduced by Michigan State University Extension 4-H.

 Global Entrepreneurship Week, November 15–21, was a chance for millions of youth across the globe to connect and explore business ideas in a variety of activities. Dana Tuller, AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America), worked with youth at the high school to celebrate the week in a variety of ways.

 Sunrise Academy students learned about business in an entrepreneurship class using the Going SOLO curriculum. They opened a store in the school during Global Entrepreneurship Week that featured products made and purchased by the students. Students ran the business during the entire operation process.

 The students also attended the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Business Expo. While there, the youth interacted with hundreds of business owners and got ideas about the kinds of businesses they might want to open in the future.

 The students also toured the facilities at Britten Banners, a local business that has grown tremendously over the last fifteen years. Two department managers shared their employment stories with the students. The teens were encouraged when they learned that each speaker started out at Britten Banners in an entry-level position and each has now moved into management.

 Students also were educated through a panel discussion involving a wide range of business owners including a day care provider, an engineer, a disk jockey, a salsa maker, a fresh food initiative entrepreneur and the owner of a local Cartridge World.

 Dana works with lead teacher Kathy Breece, and both women are very encouraged at the kids’ response to the program. One student, in particular, took responsibility for the store, making sure that it was opened every day during lunch break and keeping tabs on the inventory.

 Said Dana, “Students have responded well. It’s not often they get hooked on something, but they’ve really taken ownership of this.”

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