Despite the constant changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic in St. Vrain Valley School District, more than 115 Longmont High School students are paving new trails in business through the High School of Business Pathway Program and ranking in the top 10% in the nation.
High School of Business is a national program that teaches high school students the inner workings of the business world through a series of six courses that include hands-on projects. “The program also includes observational internships, opportunities to earn college credit, and local oversight from a team of college faculty, business professionals, and school personnel,” according to a news release.
Longmont High students are the only ones in the district currently offered this program taught by Alex Sommers and Jim Giveans.
The school store is run through the High School of Business Pathway Program. Students do everything from inventory to ordering supplies to staffing the store in order to gain a better understanding of how a business is run, Sommers said.
Some students take the lessons they have learned and apply them by creating personal businesses on eBay and in the community, he said.
The program’s lessons not only introduce students to business practices but also allow them to network and build a strong in-school community, Sommers said.
Networking opportunities have been harder to come by this year but Sommers and Giveans have used their networks to provide students with access to local business leaders through in-class discussions. Additionally, all students enrolled in the program are members of Future Business Leaders of America, or FBLA. Through FBLA, students are given further opportunity to network with national business leaders, Sommers said. Those opportunities, along with students’ involvement in the program, can lead to internships.
One of the up-and-coming students is sophomore Malia Hendricks, whose parents own two small businesses.
Hendricks was a top scorer out of the 6,000 students nationwide who participated in the High School of Business exams in the 2019-2020 school year. She, along with 15 of her classmates, scored in the top 10% in the nation.
Those students are Kenneth Barton, Taylor Billings, Eloise Browder, Luca Capaldi, Matthew Cash, Maegan Dunn, Dev Elzinga, Ezra Fehlberg, Seth Hagedorn, Justice Kline, Easton Lowrie, Thomas Marshall, Alexia Meza, Samantha Wilson, Jackson Wood and Owen Wroe.
Hendricks enrolled in the program as a freshman and wants to pursue a career in business.
“To me, a career in business looks like being able to eventually be my own boss and be creatively free. My parents actually own two small businesses, so I’ve grown up around the challenging circumstances and monumental successes. I think knowing that I am fully accountable for my actions — good and bad — is what draws me to the many layers of business,” Hendricks said.
While she is unsure what area of business she wants to pursue, she is taking advantage of the opportunity the program affords her and is learning about all sectors of business, she said.
Hendricks said she believes of all the lessons she has learned in the program so far, networking is the most important. She shared a story about how networking helped her team win a school competition to raise money for the Longmont Humane Society.
“Last year, my class was in competition with another class to raise more money for the Humane Society. My class had more people, but a less organized marketing system. We were all convinced the other classroom was going to raise more money. But when it came to fundraiser day, my class was able to raise more money by using our connections more efficiently. I learned firsthand that creating and maintaining connections is incredibly important, even — and especially — if the inner workings are a little wobbly,” she said.
As other SVVSD schools have seen a reduction in business-related programs, Longmont High School is seeing its program expand, Sommers said.
Hendricks attributes Longmont High’s success to the deep dive into the inner workings of the business world.
“We’ve learned about everything from globalization and respecting cultures to how the stock market works. And I’m only halfway through the program. I feel prepared to take on so many different situations in business because of the in-depth units taught in this program,” she said.
The program is designed to give SVVSD students a leg up when they reach college, Sommers said. However, no matter what path students chose, Hendricks said she believes High School of Business teaches life skills all students can appreciate.
“Even if you aren’t interested in a career in business, I would say joining the program is beneficial. You learn life skills pertaining to money, human interaction and the inner workings of the business world all while making friends. Everyone in this program is so nice, and I have made a lot of lasting connections,” she said.