Almost 200 eighth-graders last week got a lesson in business as part of the Blue Valley Middle School Community Partnership, a special program that pairs students with 23 businesses at 151st Street and Nall Avenue to learn about how to function in a workplace and what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.
Blue Valley Middle School is the only school in the district to have this program.
The students spent 30 minutes each at two different businesses, then attended a seminar given by the Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies program. Participating businesses included Banana Island, Capitol Federal Bank, iXL Martial Arts and St. Luke’s Medical Group.
One of the things students learned at Banana Island, a frozen yogurt shop, was how to put a sale through the cash register. At Capitol Federal Bank, they were given a tour of the teller area and watched how a teller deposited funds for a customer in the drive-thru.
“I’m going to try to learn the different skills it takes to run Banana Island like an entrepreneur,” said Brianna Jordan, 14.
Chris Kuttenkuler, owner of the tutoring business Math Monkey, has been part of the program for three years.
“I always find it fun and interesting seeing the kids react when you explain to them what’s involved in running your own business,” Kuttenkuler said. “It’s everything from cleaning the bathroom to talking with parents. … I like that (the school has) exposed the kids to business ownership and what’s involved at a fairly young age.”
Because the students are 13 and 14 years old, most have never gone on a job interview or worked in a professional setting before. The hands-on experience can be eye-opening for them.
“We’re the only school that does this,” said Brooke Nolkemper, 13. “I’m excited to go to St. Luke’s Medical Group. I want to be a doctor or a nurse practitioner, and that will get me on the path.”
Some of the students do already have jobs. Brianna baby-sits, and Brooke works as a soccer referee.
Noeu Chan, owner of iXL Martial Arts, has been participating in the program since it started three years ago.
“I want to make sure entrepreneurship is an option for kids. Seeing what we’ve done and what we’re able to do, they learn,” Chan said.
Chan gives the students a tour of his business and explains to them that running a martial arts gym is about more than showing kids how to kick and punch — even if that is the most fun part.
Candy Moore, a counselor at Blue Valley Middle School, said the district has been supportive of the community partnership, which she started three years ago.
“In school, we’re all about educating students and preparing them for the future, so (with this program) we get them in the businesses they might be interviewing in one day,” Moore said. “It can turn on a lightbulb.”
If a student might be interested in one day having his or her own restaurant, it can serve as both a reality check and an inspiration to see how an actual restaurant kitchen works.
Moore said she invited all the businesses at the 151st Street and Nall Avenue intersection to participate, and most of them do.
“Having them here seems like a really powerful learning tool,” Moore said. “They’re learning … things you would never know as a customer. In some locations they get to use the tools (of the business), and you see them getting excited about a potential career.”
Beth Lipoff: firstname.lastname@example.org