School-based enterprises are popping up throughout the lower Hudson Valley.  The enterprises are actually student-driven businesses that provide young people with hands-on work experiences exposing them to a wide range of employment skills.

Although school-based enterprises have been around for years, they have gained momentum recently due, in large part, to the creation of the New York State Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement Credential.  The purpose of the credential is to provide high school students with career exploration activities as well as with actual work experiences, helping them to be better prepared for the job market.  Last year the New York State Regents approved the credential as a Multiple Pathway option.  Eligible students may now substitute the credential for one of the Regents social studies exams.

There are several requirements that must be met to earn the credential.  Perhaps the most challenging – students must accrue at least 216 hours of work-based learning experiences.  Some of these hours may be met through participation in career and technical education (CTE) programs, but not all. The credential is also available to students who are not enrolled in CTE programs.  In either case, individuals must participate in work-readiness activities. Participation in a school-based enterprise is listed among the approved activities.

Some districts have a long history of student-operated businesses such as school stores, food concessions at sporting events, and coffee cafes for teachers.  More recently, other enterprises are emerging.  As part of the start-up process, students help determine what products to create as well as which services to provide.  As a result, young entrepreneurs across our region are now learning about marketing, product forecasting, purchasing and selling.

Just as important, according to Yonkers Riverside High School teacher Kim Longville, are the opportunities for students to connect with each other and with the community as well.  Ms. Longville, along with Principal Don Solimene and others, helped students begin a plant-growing business last year.  What started as seeds planted in paper cups has now blossomed into a project which features an indoor greenhouse constructed out of recycled soda bottles and donated wooden pallets. The plants – herbs, vegetables and fruits – will be sold soon.  Students are not only learning how to maintain a garden and run a business, according to Ms. Longville, but they are also learning about recycling and the importance of making healthy food choices.

An important decision in running a successful school-based enterprise is what to do with the profits.  The students at Hawthorne Country Day came up with an innovative idea that allows them to invest profits from one project in another potentially profit-yielding enterprise – vending machines.  The vision was just the first step, according to Kim Arruda, the school’s Community Integration, Vocational and Transition Coordinator. What followed was a solid business plan developed by the students which included research as well as cost benefits.  Armed with their proposal, students dressed in business attire to meet with the higher-ups who would ultimately have the authority to approve the plan.  The pitch met with a unanimous thumbs up and the students will soon have their machines.

Creativity drives the school-based enterprise featured at Carmel High School.  Notecards, designed by students, are packaged and distributed to staff and others affiliated with the school.  The cards have become so popular, more varieties are being offered.  The cards are not actually sold, however some individuals have elected to make donations.  These contributions help underwrite production expenses. There are many benefits to the notecard business.  It allows students to showcase their artistic talents and it also creates opportunities for students and staff to come together in ways that did not exist before the products were developed and marketed.

So tap into yours and your students’ entrepreneurial  genius and help them turn their ideas into reality.  Watch for the  School-Based Enterprises  workshop series offered by the RSE-TASC (next one begins on May 4th).  We would love to feature your enterprise in a future newsletter!