Last fall, fifteen volunteers from the Social Enterprise Institute participated in a social entrepreneurship program in partnership with Citizen Schools program. Citizen Schools is an organization that partners with middle schools across the country to offer extended day programs to students in low performing schools. The Citizen Schools model brings “Citizen Teachers” in to teach students about their expertise after school once a week. Middle school students become “apprentices” to their teachers, learning through purposefully hands-on and interactive exercises. Teachers range from local business people and engineers to lawyers and policy makers, and the subject of the apprenticeships vary correspondingly. The curriculum of every Citizen Schools program is geared towards building “21st century skills”, which includes collaboration, global awareness, and problem solving. All apprenticeships end with “WOW!”- an opportunity for the students to showcase what they’ve learned with their family, friends, and community members.
SEI’s volunteers taught a program called “BizKids” at Orchard Gardens K-8, just a few blocks from Northeastern’s campus. The BizKids apprenticeship is aimed at teaching students the basics of opening a business, how to market and sell a product, the principals of micro-finance, and how global poverty can be helped through entrepreneurial solutions. To instill these lessons, students focused on one main project throughout the semester: starting their own small-scale social businesses with the intention of donating all profits to Kiva, a web based platform which facilitates peer to peer lending all over the world.
In business groups of five BizKids, students ranging from sixth to eighthgrade created handmade products aimed at the college student market: neon painted sunglasses, tote bags announcing inspirational messages, trucker hats, and colorful chocolates were some of the products. At the WOW! held on Northeastern’s campus, students made their product pitch to prospective customers passing through, selling most of their inventory and impressing customers with their fantastic public speaking skills and confidence.
Highlights of the apprenticeship included visiting Haley House in Roxbury on a field trip, watching students master the techniques of an elevator product pitch, and designing and creating the exciting products. This semester, volunteers from SEI will be at Orchard Gardens again, leading the new “Take Back the Kitchen” Apprenticeship Program with Haley House.