San Marcos High School Principal Ed Behrens says high school students could become the brains behind new local startup companies. With that in mind, the school’s Entrepreneurship Academy, which will launch in 2013-2014, will enable students to explore interests and future opportunities in business.
The program, which Behrens describes as unique to the community, is intended to provide students with the opportunity to interact with real businesses during their senior year.
The new program will implement SBCC marketing and business classes on the San Marcos campus to prepare students for further study in college, and ultimately future business ventures and local startup companies. Students will also have the opportunity to intern or job shadow at local businesses. The classes will be offered as dual enrollment at no extra cost to students.
The program builds off of the school’s renowned Kids Helping Kids annual charity event, a nonprofit group spearheaded by AP Microeconomics and Macroeconomics teacher Jamie DeVries that has raised about $750,000 for local and global organizations in its 10-year existence.
“Through the Kids Helping Kids network, we have already placed students in businesses,” DeVries said. “We want to expand upon that. Students have been hired because of relations built in their senior year.”
Students of the academy will follow a three-year, six-course sequence, starting in 10th grade and culminating in 12th grade with completion of AP Micro and Macroeconomics, participation in Kids Helping Kids, and creation and competition of a small-business plan in which they will present their ideas in front of potential business investors.
“The idea is that in the fall there will be a business given to them, so they know how to run it,” DeVries said. “In the spring, they will create their own.”
Behrens said planning for the academy began in September 2011 with a trip to Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra. He and a team of teachers — DeVries, math teacher Luke Sunukjian and Health Academy director Marcene Newman — went to observe the Alhambra school’s award-winning International Business Academy.
Behrens said he also met with SBCC Dean of Business Diane Hollems, Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation director Melissa Moreno and other professors in the Business Department to develop the academy.
“We already had this amazing Kids Helping Kids program with 10 years of success,” Behrens said. “We felt like we really wanted to create something unique that was going to be exciting to San Marcos and the community. We wanted to build on that existing program — if we can get students to get more skills in 10th and 11th grade, before Kids Helping Kids, it will make the program even better.”
The first year of the academy will be open to 35 students. Behrens said he is already talking to parents about the program and will continue to advertise it on various levels of outreach, most notably to freshmen in the Get Focused, Stay Focused Initiative — a freshmen seminar class that will help students create 10-year plans and develop career interests that they can modify online in the future.
Selection for the first class of the academy will begin with an application process to take place next spring. Behrens said he is working with Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Dave Cash on finalizing the application and selection process.
Behrens said he wants the academy to be representative of the school’s population — which is 50.2 percent Hispanic/Latino, 42.6 percent white, 3.5 percent Asian, 1.7 percent African American, 1.3 percent American Indian/Alaskan Native and 0.6 percent Filipino, according to a 2011 school profile.
“One of our goals schoolwide is to make classes rigorous and relevant — that’s where education is heading with implementation of the common core standards,” Behrens said. “We’re going to focus on the freshmen seminar, going from there, how students can implement a career pathway and working on establishing more and more pathways for students to explore.”
He added that students selected for the academy will need to be academically motivated, but that students will be able to do well in an AP and college-level environment.
“If someone’s motivated to be successful, if they have an idea to follow that through, we’re going to support them to make that happen,” Behrens said. “Obviously we’re going to create a plan where students can be successful in coursework. If we need to supply additional support, we’ll do that.”
Although Kids Helping Kids will serve as the capstone project of the academy, DeVries said San Marcos students have historically performed well on the AP Economics exams.
“We’ve always had more kids taking and more kids passing AP Micro and Macro exams — a 20 to 30 percent higher pass rate than the national average,” DeVries said.
Behrens said business partners, financial support and teaching staff will be finalized during this academic year.
Local businesses have expressed willingness to participate, DeVries said. Although the academy will not launch until the next academic year, Behrens said businesses have already begun supplying students with resources. This year’s Kids Helping Kids staff will get office space at Synergy, a startup incubator at 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez in Santa Barbara, in addition to its new classroom headquarters reorganized to include desks and a conference table.
Kids Helping Kids continues to grow this year, as the organization’s five leaders will travel to Denver to train leaders at Valor High School as they develop their own Kids Helping Kids event. DeVries said the student leaders have learned how to give corporate board presentations from training with the Music Academy of the West, and how to speak to different foundations and corporations to garner sponsors.
The nonprofit, which Behrens and DeVries are looking to expand under the academy, has influenced students into studying business in college, DeVries said.
“On a Facebook post to the Kids Helping Kids wall, I asked how many students involved in Kids Helping Kids had majored in business,” DeVries said. “I received around 70 replies.”
He said he plans to create an alumni business network to maintain relationships and to continue to track success of the school’s new academy.
“A lot of alumni are willing to give back and reach out to the younger generation,” DeVries said. “We want to build a network to facilitate these relationships.”
Behrens and DeVries said they are hopeful of the academy’s long-term effects.
“The way I see it is, we’re trying to train the next generation of entrepreneurs,” DeVries said.