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Kennedy class offers business training for students

Staff photo / Allie Vugrincic John F. Kennedy High School seniors Austin Kovalik, 18, left, and Nick Vassis, 18; teacher Matthew Green; and senior Michael Rieger, 17, make a poster-sized number grid for a client during entrepreneurship class. In the class, students design, produce and sell products, interact with real clients and handle money.

WARREN — When students in John F. Kennedy High School’s entrepreneurship class take orders for products, they’re dealing with real clients and real money and working on real deadlines.

“I think it’s different,” senior Roman Young, 17, said. “You don’t go to too many high schools where students are learning how to manage money.”

Students in the class design products from posters and signs to T-shirts, poker chips and cutting boards, then produce the products with the help of a large laser printer, a laser engraver and a T-shirt press.

Aidan Rossi, 16, a junior, who was hard at work this year designing and laser-printing trivets, said part of the class involves figuring out the cost of materials and how much to charge for finished products in order to make a profit.

Plus, students have to meet deadlines for their orders — one trivet takes 25 to 30 minutes to engrave, depending on the design, Rossi said.

Students also have to correspond with clients, sending designs back and forth and informing them when orders are ready. Money earned from sales goes back into the class account for future projects.

Young, who is taking the class for the second time, said he likes the class both for its creative aspects and because it teaches students how to manage a business and talk to clients. A recent favorite project of his was creating a banner for the Rev. Christopher Cicero at Blessed Sacrament.

“I think it’s a good introduction to all the different aspects of business,” said teacher Matthew Green, who has helmed the class for two years.

He said while classes such as economics might “pigeonhole” students into one area of study, Kennedy’s entrepreneurship class lets students find the aspect of business that most interests them.

Students work in the Think Lab, a former library turned technology hub. In addition to the tools most often used by the entrepreneurship class, the space has a green screen, an interactive white board and a large TV, among other items.

School Principal Alyse Consiglio, who led the effort both to convert the library and to get the entrepreneurship class started, said the class is “hands-on.”

“We have a lot of small-business owners at Kennedy,” Consiglio said. “We wanted to give their kids a way to learn business.”

She said she and Green are “self taught” and have been learning along with the students.

“They see us as lifelong learners,” Consiglio said.

Green said his favorite thing about the class is seeing the creativity of the students, and how it manifests as real products.

“I think they really like seeing that physical product, and seeing that people actually want to buy it,” Green said.

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