Charleston Collegiate Entrepreneurship Student Helps Mother Start Business

*This is a true story told from the perspective of Mr. Hacker Burr, Head of School. The names have not been changed.

Carlos is an 11th grader at Charleston Collegiate. Carlos is a quiet kid. He sits in the back of my Entrepreneurship class. Although he doesn’t say very much during class, I can tell he is engaged- that he is really listening and working to understand all that I am presenting to the students. Most of the other students like to constantly fire off their ideas. They have that ‘one day I’m going to take over the world’ kind of mentality that is not easily restrained in a class where the discussions range from finding a niche market to managing employees. But Carlos is different. Carlos seems to be more interested in taking it all in. Every now and then, he’ll ask a very specific question about start-up costs or how to evaluate the market. To these questions, I usually provide a precise answer and keep on teaching. Occasionally, Carlos will stop by my office and ask specific questions about his business. Often caught up in the frenzy of running the school, I will answer his questions and go back to the task I was completing, without even thinking about the fact that we have not yet covered those certain aspects of entrepreneurship that he wants to discuss.

Then, during the typical chaos of a Lower School dismissal last week, I noticed Carlos’ mom making her way down the hallway engaging everyone she passed.  She was handing out business cards to the parents picking up their children. As I approached her, I was contemplating how I could say “no solicitation” as politely as possible. But, before I could say anything, she turned to me, smiling, and handed me one of her cards. She speaks limited English, but has a contagious smile and is constantly thanking me and the faculty for all we are doing for Carlos. After smiling back at Mrs. Corona, I thanked her for the card, shook her hand, and continued down the hall without giving the short interaction too much thought.

Later that day, I put it all together. The following Monday morning, I caught up with Carlos while he was changing classes and asked him to speak with me.  I took out his mother’s business card and asked him if he had anything to do with her starting her own business. Confidently and without hesitation, he replied, “Of course.  Every day after I get home from football practice, I sit down with her and tell her what we did in class that day — I teach her what you taught me.”

I was shocked. Once I caught my breath, I thanked Carlos and told him how impressed I was. Then I sent him back to class.

As an educator, this is the moment you are constantly working toward: that moment when you know a student truly understands what you are teaching him– skills, strategies, and information he will use for the rest of his life. The Entrepreneurship program provides an opportunity for students to apply knowledge learned from other courses such as Public Speaking, Statistics, Applied Technology, Economics and more to develop a vision for their future.

The Entrepreneurship program is a vehicle that we can use to impact and improve our entire community. During the 2013-2014 academic year we will be expanding our Entrepreneurship program in partnership with YEScarolina to afternoon classes for students from the greater community and evening classes for unemployed or underemployed adults. We want to enable people throughout the Lowcountry with the same skills that Carlos used to enable his mom. Carlos is a perfect example of the ‘teaching up’ strategy on which the program is rooted.  Charleston Collegiate and YESCarolina have the space, the instructors, and the materials for this course. All we need is a classroom full of people willing and ready to learn.

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