Teachers in the Franklin Regional School District are slowly but surely forming a small army of entrepreneurs and skilled workers through programs funded by the nonprofit Franklin Regional Panther Foundation.
The Foundation’s first $ 12,000 scholarship in 2017 helped build the FR Panther Shop, where Work Exploration program life skills students collaborate with classmates as part of their entrepreneurship course to sell goods from concept to completion in the Create District – Designs using materials and specialty equipment to create unique FR products.
These products are then used to help life skills students explore the concepts of marketing and sales by running a small school shop.
With the latest grant, they can get their business on the road. The money was used to fund a mobile kiosk that allows district events to be held both on and off campus.
It also solved the problem of district nurses taking over the old school shop space under social distancing and Covid-19 restrictions.
“With this mobile kiosk, we can sell products but not take up as much space in the building,” said Michelle Longo, life skills teacher and transition coordinator. “We ordered it more than a year ago, but with the Covid shutdown it was a long time delayed.”
The idea behind the kiosk is to give students more opportunities to develop transferable work skills, practice teamwork, build social trust and gain work experience by running the kiosk at events.
“If I want to roll it to the gym and have the kids work on a basketball game, we can easily take it to the entrance,” Longo said.
The kiosk is also used in conjunction with the high school coffee café, which is also run by students with life skills.
“The kids do all the orders and everything is color coded for our non-readers,” said Longo. “Next year we want our food service staff to work the opposite times so we can be open when they aren’t.”
Creating products for the kiosks is usually a team effort with the high school entrepreneurship class, “but the class didn’t really have the resources or kids in the building to help us,” Longo said. “But the kids with life skills could use the register to sell coffee, and that way, they made some kiosk sales.”
Next year Longo said her goal was to have the kiosk and coffee shop open at least three times a day.
“If we can have all of our students in the building next year, I want more ‘buddy’ students to help out throughout the day,” she said. “It will give other children the opportunity to work too.”
The students in the Social Entrepreneurship class, taught by Becky Magness and Roger Crider, have been working on new designs, and the entire student team will be working together on the printing and production process this fall.
Patrick Varine is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected], or on Twitter.