COLLIER COUNTY — A new course aimed at teaching students how to think like entrepreneurs is debuting next year at all Collier County high schools.
The class, Preparation for Entrepreneurship/Self Employment, is the first of its kind for the Collier County School District. In it, 11th grade students will learn personal finance and business ethics from local professionals, and be guided through the process of launching a company. They’ll also participate in a business fair and have job shadowing opportunities.
District administrators say the goal is to teach the 21st century skills vital for the jobs available now and those that will be created in the future.
“It isn’t that we're expecting every kid to go out and start their own business,” Collier schools Superintendent Kamela Patton said. “But it is those life skills they will learn that translate to real world.”
The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce and local Junior Achievement are partnering with the district to start the new course, which Patton said she’s wanted to start since her first day as superintendent. Launching it at the district’s nine high schools is expected to cost about $10,000, which administrators hope to at least partially cover through business partnerships. It will be taught by district teachers with the assistance of local professionals on a volunteer basis.
Mike Reagen, president of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, said his organization will be willing to look at funding the class once the budget is put together. He said the chamber wanted to support the new class because entrepreneurs are key to job growth in the United States, where they generate about 80 percent of the jobs.
“Many students really don’t have any sense of what an entrepreneur does, how they think, how they look at risks and opportunities,” Reagen said. “Many young people don’t know about business other than what they know from their parents.”
Patton hopes to tap the chamber to bring in local entrepreneurs to speak with students. Her plan is to have the class held during the same time at each high school, so the speeches can be live-streamed to students at each site.
Ideally, Patton wants to match each school with an entrepreneur. Reagen said he has several community members who would be “absolutely terrific” in mind.
The curriculum will be provided by Junior Achievement, a nonprofit group that works with businesses and other organizations to provide educational programs to K-12 students. Anne Frazier, president of the organization’s Southwest Florida branch, said the class could end up expanding to other Southwest Florida districts. She said Lee County School District authorities are following the course in hopes of creating something similar.
The new class is “really special” because it rolls four Junior Achievement courses into one class, Frazier said.
“Normally an 11th grader might get one of these classes if they’re lucky,” she said.
She said those who take the course will leave it with a better grasp of how to plan for their careers and futures.
“Our hope is that we can bridge that gap between school and work and empower the students to succeed in a global economy,” Frazier said.
Anyone interested in teaching or helping out with the class is encouraged to contact Anne Frazier at Junior Achievement by phone at (239) 225-2590 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.