Teachers in the Franklin Regional School District are slowly but surely creating a small army of entrepreneurs and skilled workers through programs funded by the nonprofit Franklin Regional Panther Foundation.
The foundation’s first $12,000 grant in 2017 helped establish the FR Panther Shop, where life-skills students in the Work Exploration program work with classmates in its entrepreneurship course to create district-branded merchandise from conception to completion — creating designs, using materials and specialized equipment to produce unique FR products.
Those products are then used to help life-skills students explore the concepts of marketing and sales by operating a small-scale school store.
The latest grant will let them take their business on the road. The money funded a mobile kiosk that can travel to district events both on and off campus.
It also solved the problem of district nurses taking over the old school-store space amid social distancing and covid-19 restrictions.
“This mobile kiosk gives us the ability to 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 delayed for a long time.”
The idea behind the kiosk is to provide increased opportunities for students to develop transferable work skills, practice teamwork, increase social confidence and gain work experiences by operating the kiosk at events.
“If I want to wheel it down to the gym and have the kids work at a basketball game, we can easily move it to the entrance,” Longo said.
The kiosk will also be used in conjunction with the high school’s coffee café, which is also run by life-skills students.
“The kids complete all the orders, and everything is color-coded for our non-readers,” Longo said. “Next year, we want to work the opposite times from our food-service staff so we can be open when they’re not.”
Creating products for the kiosks is typically a team effort with the high school’s entrepreneurship class, “but the class didn’t really have the resources or kids in the building to help us,” Longo said. “But the life-skills kids were able to use the register to sell coffee, and ended up making some sales from the kiosk that way.”
Next year, Longo said her goal is to have the kiosk and coffee café open for at least three periods each day.
“If we’re allowed to have all our students in the building next year, I want to have more ‘buddy’ students come in also and help throughout the day,” she said. “It will give other kids the opportunity to work as well.”
Students in the Social Entrepreneurship class, taught by Becky Magness and Roger Crider, have been working on new designs and the entire team of students will collaborate in the printing and production process this fall.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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