YCSD offers middle school class for future entrepreneurs

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YORK COUNTY — The York County School Division (YCSD) is preparing students for their futures through entrepreneurship classes and mentors. 

“Make It Your Business” is an elective course for middle school students that is designed to teach them skills in entrepreneurship and business principles.  

Dr. Karen Cagle, Associate Director of Educational Technology and Innovation, said that this was the first year the course was offered.   

Dr. Cagle oversees the division’s Career Connections programs, which implements several objectives to ensure the students are career ready. 

“Our goal when they leave us is that they will have a career one day,” Dr. Cagle said. “College may be part of that, but they may go right into a career. We want to help them be aware of what’s out there and help them get practicing skills if possible.”

Mentorship programs are part of this strategic plan. Through their EngagedIN program, the division uses a database to work with business partners who can speak in classrooms, participate in career panels and provide mentorships for the students. 

Dr. Cagle said that this database has been particularly helpful for their Make It Your Business course, in which mentors are assigned to groups of students to give them feedback on their projects.   

Students in this elective course work in groups to create a product to sell or service to offer in a pop-up market. Dr. Cagle said that this year’s course was built around a theme of “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

“It really helps them identify an everyday problem so they actually brainstorm,” she said. “We want the students to be able to reinvent things to solve the problem they may have.”

The students have significant roles to play in each group as they research, create a prototype, come up with a budget and meet with a business mentor who provides guidance for them.

They are expected to collaborate and receive feedback from their peers. 

Dr. Cagle said the course was built around the idea of entrepreneurship spanning all careers.

“You can be in entrepreneurship whether you’re in the engineering field or medical field,” she said. “It’s a great skill to have.”

The products that the students have designed include making pencil cases from old books, jewelry from recycled materials, and taking old jeans and repurposing them into a backpack. 

Dr. Cagle said that the class is beneficial to the students because it requires higher-level thinking. 

“It’s very powerful to see how they adapt to those roles and work together to develop something that they’re proud of,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for kids to develop real world skills that they’ll take into the workplace. Even if they don’t start their own business, they develop skills they can apply to any job.” 

The course will remain in the middle school curriculum for next year, as the schools have seen a high interest in students as they have begun registering for classes. 

Dr. Cagle said that a high school entrepreneurship course will be added to the division’s program of studies next year. 

The division has also applied for a grant through the state to be able to offer an entrepreneurship curriculum for fourth and fifth graders in the elementary schools’ Makerspaces, which offers STEM career themes, including coding and computer science.

Dr. Cagle said that her vision is to grow the program so it spans all levels.

The course is currently offered at Grafton Middle, Queens Lake Middle and Yorktown Middle, and will be offered at Tabb Middle next year. 

In total, 212 students are currently enrolled in the classes.

YCSD spokeswoman Katherine Goff said that the class helps the students find something that they are interested in and work towards creating a product that they can be proud of.  

“Starting at an early age just keeps that passion growing for high school so they know there’s multiple paths for them upon graduation,” she said.

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