When senior Melissa Bare started her last few high school classes, it seemed more like she was already on the job.
After honing her skills in computer illustration at the Kent Career Tech Center during her junior year, she was back in a Sparta High School classroom, utilizing those skills with a new $25,000 banner printer.
She was also teaching other students her skills in computer design and utilizing the printer.
“I am actually really excited about this,” Melissa said, “especially being able to give fellow students an opportunity to get into some of this stuff.”
Early on, Melissa said that she struggled with her attitude toward school and had trouble staying on track in her classes. But now while finishing her high school credits, it became important to her to help others as well as prepare for a career in business.
Her involvement in the “printing business” was made possible when a Sparta Education Foundation grant and community donations helped the school purchase the banner printer.
“This has given me a lot of extra experience in design and has helped me get ready to maybe run a business,” she said.
Getting Ready for Business World
Students enrolled in Career Academy, which is housed in one wing of Sparta High School, not only are able to work on computer illustration skills and learn to run the printer; they are getting an opportunity to learn to work with clients in a real business world setting.
“That process teaches life and job skills in a practical way,” said Carol Deuling-Ravell, who is the Career Intern Program coordinator for the high school.
“I can teach them how to design and run the machine, but this is helping us explore how we can improve all of those soft skills,” Deuling-Ravell said.
The less tangible skills learned by preparing a banner for a local business or a school event include such things as the importance of being on time, building loyalty to a business, a basic willingness to learn and how to adapt a product for a client, she said.
“Many kids need to learn to better communicate,” said Career Academy teacher Ted Smith. “They don’t always know how to talk to adults, let alone know how to effectively utilize skills such as emailing, phoning and working with someone face-to-face.”
Having the banner printer at the high school gives the students both the hands-on skills and the opportunity to communicate directly with clients, he said.
More Projects Please
The students’ first business banner was for a local tool and die company.
One project that they really had fun with was experimenting with senior banners in the hopes they might be able to market them for graduation open houses.They practiced blowing up senior pictures of their friends to banner size, checking for quality.
“We want to know if a photo taken by a parent or friend has the same quality as one from a professional photographer when made big enough for the banner,” said Melissa.
Most of their work has been district-related, and the student group has worked closely with the Sparta Sports Boosters and varsity coaches to produce banners for the district athletes, said Smith. The school charges just enough for its services to be self-sustaining.
“We have made individual banners for the basketball team and wrestling team for the high school fieldhouse,” he said. “We have also worked in tandem with the Sports Boosters to make individual banners and business promotional banners at a reduced cost to our programs.”
I Want to be Part of This
“It is so great having something else beyond classroom work for these kids,” added, Smith who had been hoping for something like this for a couple of years. Having a machine like the printer to work with gives the students extra motivation, he said.
“This was the missing piece in my mind. I knew that kids would do well if they had something else beyond their classroom. They know that ‘If I want to be a part of this, I have to finish my other work.'”
The potential to learn other business skills such as advertising and getting the word out is also there.
New mother and junior Cheyenne Toczylowski worked closely with Melissa in hopes that she would also be able to help other students learn the business of printing. In addition, she was hoping to use her “people skills” to help grow the options available to the fledgling business by using social media and advertising techniques.
“This is my way of finishing school and making sure when I leave high school, I will have some skills that I can use to support myself and my son,” she said.