Two sets of Western Québec students rallied around separate social entrepreneurship ventures, as they test piloted The Learning Partnership’s “Entrepreneurial Adventure” program. By persevering and encouraging each other, the students succeeded in helping other at-risk members of their community—both human and animal.
The 20 students in the Prework Training option of Philemon Wright High School’s Work-Oriented Training Path understand what it means to be at risk. Their diverse learning needs and challenges have often set them apart from other high-school students. Such is the case, too, for the 13 students registered in the WQSB’s Lindsay Place Alternative Program, located at Buckingham School. Ranging from ages 9 to 16, they have faced difficult situations both at home and in school and struggle to stay motivated.
When GOAL consultant Kelly Butler approached their teachers and administrators about piloting Entrepreneurial Adventure, the latter were all ears. “Entrepreneurship fits well with the WOTP curriculum,” notes Philemon Wright teacher Kathlene Vibert. “I thought it would be a neat project-based learning opportunity that would get the kids involved in their community,” adds Lindsay Place case manager Tracy Charles.
Entrepreneurial Adventure was developed by The Learning Partnership, a non-profit organization that supports and advances public education throughout Canada, and that is also behind the annual Take our Kids to Work™ initiative. Students who participate in Entrepreneurial Adventure create, market and deliver a product or service that raises money for a charity of their choice. To assist them through the process, each class is twinned with a business mentor.
Causes that resonate
The Philemon Wright students chose to support Gatineau’s recently opened Centre for social pediatrics by creating care packages for the children waiting to be seen there. As Kathlene and fellow teacher Tracy Maurice explain in a description of the project: “Many of our students have had the misfortune of needing social-service involvement in their homes. Because of this, they can understand and connect with the children they are helping.” (Social pediatrics takes a holistic approach to the health-care needs of children in vulnerable environments by treating the underlying social and economic factors that contribute to health problems.)
The Lindsay Place students—who care for a resident bunny as part of their program—took a different, if equally meaningful, route. “Our students are passionate about animals and pets and they wanted to create a product that expanded on their love for animals,” says Tracy Charles. Every student also takes part in cooking classes. With lots of brainstorming—and “one idea rolling into another”—they decided to support the SPCA Outaouais by researching recipes and producing and selling homemade “Bark Bites” dog treats.
Involving their communities
In each case, students had support from business mentors at the Bank of Montréal, a national program partner of Entrepreneurial Adventure. They gave the students pointers on organizing a project from start to finish, and in the case of Lindsay Place, helped cook and package the Bark Bites. They also provided a start-up loan to buy ingredients, which the students paid back out of their sales.
The Philemon Wright students didn’t require start-up funds. “They wanted to involve the entire school community in their venture,” explains Kathlene, with the result that all the items in the care bags—and even the bags themselves—were donated by students, staff and families.
“You could see it physically–they started to feel good about themselves.”
Lindsay Place students also called on their extended community to help them succeed. Buckingham School (where their alternative program is housed) was a big supporter. The Lindsay Place students made in-class presentations, distributed order forms and publicized their product on the school’s website. And Buckingham students helped in the kitchen and sent in photos of their dogs taste-testing the treats.
On two occasions, the Lindsay Place students sold their “Bark Bites” at two different BMO branches. Bank staff coached them on how to greet prospective clients and explain their project in both English and French. “The kids really came out of their shell,” says Tracy Charles. “It was amazing to see them take on that role. You could see it physically—they started to feel good about themselves.”
Similar to any job setting
Both student ventures attained their goal in just a couple of months’ time. The Philemon Wright students held a donation drive in March and, over the next few weeks, assembled their care packages during their work skills classes. In late April, they delivered 50 packages to the pediatric centre. Lindsay Place raised more than $1,000 for the SPCA and now has a growing relationship with that organization. Some students plan to volunteer and do dog-walking with the shelter.
Seeing their projects through from start to finish gave every participant a sense of accomplishment. “Our students have had real-life experience in giving back to their community in a meaningful way,” notes Kathlene. “In a classroom setting, any student can learn about the concept of helping others, whereas our students created something and were directly involved in supporting families in need. The students also had to work as a team, and deal with adults outside the school. This would be similar to any job setting that they may encounter at a work placement.”
Want more info?
Entrepreneurial Adventure is a no-cost program for Québec schools, thanks to support from regional partners, Manulife and The John Dobson Foundation. To learn more about The Learning Partnership and its Entrepreneurial Adventure and other programs, contact Liz Falco at 514-290-1388 or firstname.lastname@example.org