Students getting down to business
They’re brewing up business at the Go-Hawk On the Go coffee shop at Waverly-Shell Rock Senior High School. But make no mistake, this student-run business is more than a convenient stop for students to get their caffeine fix. The coffee shop, and its accompanying senior-year business strategies class, is the capstone that students have been working toward since their freshman year.
It is all a part of the school’s High School of Business, a rigorous, business-focused curriculum with accelerated content designed to prepare students for running an actual business. Developed by the MBA Research and Curriculum Center, this student-centered approach incorporates project-based learning, encourages participation in career and technical student organizations, and offers students opportunities to earn college credit.
“Nationally, 13.8 percent of all college freshmen major in business,” said Scott Giraud, one of two business instructors at Waverly-Shell Rock Senior High School. “If you want to serve the most students in your high school this just makes sense. It makes the transition from high school to college smoother because they are really prepared to be there.”
Giraurd and fellow business educator, Ken Burrow, first learned about the program six years ago. They visited schools in Nebraska and Wisconsin that used the curriculum and were impressed with what they saw. With administration on board, they implemented the program four years ago using federal Perkins funding. The high school seniors currently in the program are the first to go through the whole program sequence.
“I started in the High School of Business because of the college credits, but I stayed for the life skills,” said senior Sai Damireddi, who is also the coffee shop’s chief executive officer.
At Waverly-Shell Rock, students opting for the program begin freshman year with classes in leadership and wealth management, the latter of which also meets state requirements outlined in SF 475, requiring all students, beginning with the graduating class of 2020, to complete one-half unit of financial literacy. From there, they progress through principles of business, economics, marketing, finance, and management, adding on new ideas and tactics to help them in the final business strategies class where they run the business.
“They need the content and the knowledge, but then they need to be able to apply that knowledge,” Burrow said. “We can talk about it all we want, but there is no way students can learn about running a business without actually running a business.”
Many of the course-required projects along the way serve double-duty, as students routinely compete in events through DECA, a career and technical student organization that provides a leadership component to the education program.
While not a requirement, most of the High School of Business students are DECA members. Sai has been a member all four years and has qualified for nationals each of those years in business management, business finance, marketing and entrepreneurship competitions.
“This is helping me grow in knowledge and experience,” Sai said. “The relationship between High School of Business and DECA has been great, and I will have 12 college credits when I graduate.”
Students who complete the full program earn 12 college credits through Hawkeye Community College. Giraud, Burrow and Waverly-Shell Rock administrators work with the college to ensure the program meets all credentialing standards. Hawkeye’s dean of business and applied technologies also sits on the program’s steering committee, along with other business and postsecondary professionals, to help guide the program.
For some students, like senior Sadie Hansen, who is also the vice president of human resources for the coffee shop, the program helped her find her passion. She has been accepted at Hawkeye Community College with plans to continue on into a four-year human resources program.
“This program has influenced my future 100 percent,” Sadie said. “Kids are going to have 150 different ideas of what they want to do and I had all of those ideas, too. But I have learned so much about how people work, what motivates them and how to handle different situations. Now I have an understanding of what Hawkeye classes will be like and I think it is a great and affordable transition from high school to start my college career.”
Not all students find a passion for business, and that is all right, too, because high school is about exploration. When they started four years ago, Waverly-Shell Rock had close to 50 students in the program. Today, 26 seniors remain. But as more students learn about the program, those initial numbers are growing.
“My older sister is in the High School of Business program, but it was really the presentations that the juniors and seniors did that cinched it for me,” said high school freshman Kenadie Wichman.
Freshmen Emma Steemer and Megan Anhalt agree that hearing from upperclassman in eighth grade and during high school registration is what piqued their interest.
“I wouldn’t have had any idea what a business student does before this program, but now that I’m in it, I want to stick with it,” Emma said.
Students don’t have to be future business majors to benefit from the program. Besides getting a kick start on college credit, the students learn about and practice working in teams, holding each other accountable, time management, communication, customer service, networking and leadership – all soft skills that employers are clamoring to find in today’s hiring pool.
“Through the High School of Business I understand that everything, no matter the field, has a business side to it,” Sai said. “I also understand the value of networking and the importance of being involved in your community. Being invested and spending more time in projects has prepared me for college no matter what I major in.
“These classes aren’t just about business, they are about life.”
Editor’s note: Programs, like High School of Business, align with Iowa’s efforts to provide students across the state with access to high-quality career and technical education (CTE) programs that integrate technical and academic skills with work-based learning experiences to better prepare them to succeed in college and careers. These efforts are also in line with Iowa’s Future Ready Iowa goal, which calls for 70 percent of Iowans in the workforce to have education and training beyond high school by 2025.