Effective Practice: Student-run Enterprises

Student-run enterprises, in which students act as an informal or formal business to provide a product or service to the community or to fellow students, serve as a great way for young people to learn about all the different elements of running a business while generating funds for some purpose.  While doing some partnership workshops earlier this year in South Dakota, an attendee shared a great example of such an initiative. (And regretfully I didn’t get the educator’s name or I’d be able to attribute the example.)

In her rural community, the student newspaper was going to close due to lack of funding. Her students decided to offer a family photo service to the community, charging $20 per session and providing families with a CD of the final photos that they could then take to Wal-Mart or CVS to have prints made. A local photographer offered some older (but still attractive) backgrounds for free, and the students ran the initiative on nights and weekends. They earned enough to keep the program going and gained some valuable experience in the process.

A couple of interesting takeaways: First, people found this to be an extremely valuable offering in the community, with families who otherwise might not be able to afford a session with a studio photographer finally able to get a high-quality family photo done. And second, their work was of such high quality that Wal-Mart told them they needed to get releases before having them printed – they couldn’t believe these weren’t professionally done!

Not only did the students fund their program, but they got great experience in the process and built new relationships across their community. A “win” for all involved!

Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.

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