Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 10:12 am | Fair 55º



Students Get Down to Business with Dons Net Café

Virtual enterprise class at Santa Barbara High School celebrates its grand opening

About 150 students, alumni and businesses partners gathered at Santa Barbara High School’s theater Friday for the grand opening of Dons Net Café.

Dons Net Café is a student-run virtual enterprise class taught at Santa Barbara High through the Regional Occupational Programs of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

After opening remarks by students Sandra Padron, Sebastian Barba and Ana Aguilar, the program featured presentations of student campaigns and guest speakers who have supported the venture.

Chris Morales, trust associate and wealth manager at Montecito Bank & Trust, said working with the students has been a rewarding experience. Morales volunteers with the Dons Net Café, teaching economics.

“I get so much more back from the students than I could ever give them,” he said. “What we have here is possible because it’s fueled and nourished by love and service.”

Student Carmen Lopez gave a presentation about the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, through which the students prepare tax returns for students, the elderly and low-income families. The Internal Revenue Service recently named the Dons Net Café as the best volunteer tax site in the nation. IRS agent Bob Correa, who the students call “The Man,” was on hand to thank his current and former students for their hard work with VITA.

Six students, the “business plan girls,” described the goals and purpose of the DNC. Initiative, continual improvement, education, sustainability and outreach were presented as guiding principles.

The DNC is made up of three sectors: food and beverage, customized products and community service. Environmental campaigns include “Plastics Are Forever” and the “Bag It” programs. The XS Project has provided two children in Indonesia scholarships to attend school by purchasing garbage from trash pickers and turning the waste into fashionable bags and purses. Do UBUNTU follows the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The students involved in this endeavor sell bracelets and donate the proceeds to an orphanage in Africa.

As students on stage urged the audience to buy more $1 raffle tickets before drawing the winner, one man shouted a challenge to other audience members: to match his $20 contribution. Other audience members spoke out, with dozens more raffle tickets purchased.

After the raffle winner was announced, students called DNC teacher Lee Knodel, aka Ms. B, to the stage and thanked her for “believing in teenagers when a lot of people don’t.”

“I still can’t believe they pay me to do this job,” Knodel said upon receiving a bouquet of flowers. “I’m the richest woman in the world. I love you guys.”

The Dons Net Café‘s grand opening ended in a rousing chicken dance, complete with song and chicken mascot.

DNC thanked its business partners: Christie Communications, Community West Bank, the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE, Green Star Coffee, the IRS, the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots and Shoots Program, MarBorg Industries, Montecito Bank & Trust, the Ocean Futures Society, Partners in Education, the Santa Barbara County Education Office, the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce, Toastmasters International, Tri-County Produce and United Way of Santa Barbara County.

Noozhawk business writer Taylor Orr can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @NoozhawkBiz, @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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