High shool students learn to set up shop

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 1:43 a.m.
For a group of local high school students, going to class took on a real-world twist Wednesday.
Students at Alachua County's Loften High School took a shot at operating their own businesses. As part of the school's Market Day program, dozens of students in Loften's business academy set up their own retail stands, hawking various products on campus.
One of the budding entrepreneurs was Jonathan Copeland, 14, a ninth-grader at Loften. Copeland, who hopes to start his own business after college, was selling chocolate-covered strawberries at a table in the school's courtyard.
"I think (Market Day) is a good program because it teaches you how to prepare," he said. "It gives us a little bit of a feel for what people like and what they don't like."
Tam'la Wheeler, 18, a 12th-grader at Loften who was selling smoothies, was equally enthusiastic about the opportunity to get a taste of retail sales. "It's very good, it teaches you how to profit from your own business," Wheeler said.
The school's business academy is run by Barbara Martin, a veteran educator who has spent 22 years working with business students at the school.
According to Martin, who was recently honored as the International Entrepreneurship Teacher of the Year by the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, setting up a retail stand was actually the last step in a very thorough process for the academy's students.
"They have had to do surveys to see what might be bought, write a paper on what they want to do, what merchandise they need to buy, research where to buy the merchandise, price their products competitively and now put it into practice," Martin said.
Martin has also seen the tangible benefits of the program, as several former students have gone on to operate local businesses.
But she believes that no matter where their career path takes them, the business academy provides its students with invaluable life skills.
"Even if they don't start a business, it gives them leadership and communication skills," Martin said.

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