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Canton School Program Introduces Students To Entrepreneurship

After a morning spent developing business ideas and learning how to put them into action, Kaya Moe said it all came down to money.

“It’s better to have more money than less money,” said Kaya, a fourth-grader at Canton Intermediate School. She and her classmates spent Friday morning learning about having your own business, from the rush of excitement when you get the idea to the challenges of working out crucial details, like how much you charge for the product so you make money.

“I think it’s cool and fun,” said Ellery Reitzas, another fourth-grader at CIS. She was part of a group that came up with an idea for selling fish with a company they named Fishies Yum.

Kaya, Ellery and the others took part in JA in a Day, a national program run by Junior Achievement, which promotes interest in business and entrepreneurship among students, Friday’s program at CIS was the first in Canton.

Schools Superintendent Kevin Case said the Junior Achievement curriculum complements efforts in the schools to get students ready for work once they graduate. Planning for Friday’s program started in the summer, he said.

On Friday, students worked in groups on several different activities. In one activity, each group was assigned a specific part of the country with certain resources that they had to use when creating a business. In addition to the fish business that Ellery and her partners came up with, proposals included a luxury hotel, a restaurant and a sweet shop.

Another activity had students running a hot dog stand. They rolled dice to determine expenses, revenue and unexpected problems that might take money away before putting everything together to see if the stand made or lost money. That led to a discussion about how much should be charged for a hot dog. When Dawne Ware, a volunteer who led the activities, suggested $20, students quickly agreed that was too much. But when a student priced the hot dog more accessibly at $1, Ware pointed out that it might not be enough to cover the stand’s expenses.

A key component of the program is the community volunteers who are themselves in business. Case said 16 people were recruited to work with the students. Michael Pelletier, a consultant for Blum Shapiro, said he has done the same program at Webster Hill School in West Hartford for six years.

“Students at this age are unencumbered with respect to the ideas they come up with,” Pelletier said. “As you get older, you develop ‘that won’t work’ language. But at this age, there is a lot of creativity and boundless thinking.”

Friday’s program lasted most of the day. Case said the intent is to continue doing activities with Junior Achievement in the town schools.

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