One team of Henley entrepreneurship students designed a website to showcase other projects completed by their classmates this year. From left: Campbell Williams, Liliah Barber, Nina Perrone, Maeci Frank. Credit: Credit: Josh Mandell, Charlottesville Tomorrow

A class of Henley Middle School students in Albemarle County has been working to improve their school for future students.

“This year we asked, ‘What are some things at Henley that drive you crazy?’” said Lisa Boyce, who co-teaches an entrepreneurship class at Henley with Adam Kuchta.

Twenty-seven eighth-grade students presented their work Wednesday to parents after participating in the yearlong entrepreneurship class. Students in the class worked in groups to address a challenge at their school.

The class counts for high school credit and the current program is in its fifth year, although Boyce said an entrepreneurship class was taught a number of years ago at Henley.

Twins Ella and Joseph Taylor identified the amount of time it takes for student athletes who play high school sports to get across the street to Western Albemarle High School after school lets out as a problem.

“Joseph and I did cross-country and track and we were always late since Western releases students much earlier than Henley does,” Ella said in their presentation

“We had no time to warm up and stretch,” Joseph said.

Over the course of working on their project, they had to meet with administrators and work toward finding solutions.

“[Students] had to learn some soft skills, like you don’t just go and stick your head in a principal’s office — you email and you’re trying to get it on the schedule for a meeting and you might send out some surveys for other students,” Boyce said.

Ella and Joseph said their project resulted in the activity bus improving the time it takes to move students over to the high school.

They suggested in their presentation that the school allot time at the end of the day where students could leave for sports, but that idea has not been implemented.

“That would help if we had a little period at the end of the day, like five, 10 minutes, so then people who are doing car pools and car rides can get to their stuff quicker too,” Ella said.

Another issue students identified was “STING,” or Henley’s homeroom period.

“STING this year was in the afternoon instead of the morning and it drove the eighth grade crazy,” Boyce said. The students who wanted to move the STING period to the morning had to work with administrators and survey their peers. STING will now be returning to the morning.

“They were a catalyst for change,” Boyce said.

Some of the other projects in the class included a survey of students on amounts of homework and a tutoring program.

In addition to addressing issues at Henley, students were also involved in a school store and the marketing and selling of “Scott Pops” — lollipops named after life skills teacher Barbara Scott, who has since retired from Henley.

The candy was sold at school dances and activity periods, and students also came up with an order form, which their peers could use to order Scott Pops. Eighth-grade student Elizabeth Bailey worked on special orders and said they encountered a few challenges along the way.

“The biggest problem was simply students not communicating well,” Bailey said. “If they didn’t understand how to use an order form, they would use it incorrectly and we wouldn’t know what they ordered, or they didn’t check their emails so they didn’t pick up whatever they ordered. … We solved it simply by fixing the order form and using teachers [to communicate] instead of email.”

The profits from the Scott Pops went to help Henley families.

“We’ve donated $525 … to guidance and they have taken those funds and they’ve bought gift cards to places like Wal-Mart and Harris Teeter and different places and they’ve been giving them to families that need it,” Boyce said.

Throughout their presentations, students presented profit margins and “SWOT” analyses, which considered the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the various initiatives.

“I think it’s great that they’re learning what a SWOT analysis is, how to give a presentation, how to understand what you do with your profits — are you going to make a profit? What are the points at which we make a profit?” said Ella and Joseph’s mother, Kris Taylor. “I think that’s really important for them to understand money in general and so I appreciate that they offer it as a class.”

Keagan Cress, a seventh-grade student, attended the presentations and said he is hoping to take the class next year.

“My step dad runs an online marketing company and my mom is also really big into marketing, so it’s kind of a career path that I’ve wanted to pursue and I think this class would help me,” Cress said.  

Keaton Wadzinski, youth entrepreneurship facilitator for the county school division, said he was impressed with the projects.

“It’s all just around how can we support students’ learning — mostly starting with the question of what do you want to make, build, learn or do?” Wadzinski said. “When you start from that position you have an entry point into authentic, meaningful, relevant learning that is focused on the student.”