Business classes provide skills for the future
Business and computers go hand-in-hand so it's only logical that the district's business classes and computer science classes share a computer lab.
At New Richmond High School the computer science department has really taken off.
Trent Bennig, the district's computer science teacher, said his department has changed dramatically in the past few years.
"When I started here we had two classes - computer apps and advanced computer apps," he said.
Since then the department has expanded to offer advanced placement computer science, introduction to multimedia, webpage design, introduction to programming, mobile apps, PC networking and a computer club.
"It's really uncommon to have a department like this on this side of the state," Bennig said. "There are very few that are this developed."
The mobile apps class is the district's latest offering and allows students to develop applications for various smartphones. Most recently a student developed an app called "Pet the Kitty," which allows users to tap a picture of a cat to make it "meow." The students will also be tasked with developing an app that will roll dice when the phone is shaken.
In the PC networking class, students are tasked with taking apart computers and putting them back together, along with troubleshooting problems and networking several computers together.
Bennig said his multimedia class learns flash animation and the basics of editing movies. They're also required to record fake radio spots.
The computer club has really gained in popularity, Bennig said.
The club operates on machines and equipment that has been retired by the school district, he said.
"We have servers, switches and hubs that they're responsible for maintaining," Bennig said of the club.
The computer club meets after school and hosts one fundraiser each winter. The fundraiser, which usually takes the form of a computer tournament or Wii tournament, raises $200-$300 each year through tournament fees. The money is later donated to a non-profit of the club's choosing.
Many of the district's computer classes relate directly to the business classes taught throughout the district, said Redgie Nielsen, who teaches business classes at both the middle and high school, along with Brent Aukema.
The business department offers various classes including personal finance, introduction to business, business law, accounting, sports and entertainment marketing, desktop publishing and marketing.
At the middle school, "Starting a Business" is one of the more popular classes, he said.
"The kids get to pick their own fictitious business to start," he said.
A lot of those businesses are sporting goods stores, hunting/fishing shops, skate shops and coffee shops, he said.
"They pick the business and create a business plan," he said.
Along the way, students are taught the basics of the Microsoft Office suite, including Word (to create the business plan), Excel (to track income and expenses), Publisher (to create various marketing materials) and Access (to manage customer lists and pull quarries).
At the high school, the new sports and entertainment marketing course has quickly become one of the most popular classes offered, Nielsen said.
In that particular class, Nielsen said students design a virtual stadium and learn about marketing their team to potential customers.
"The whole idea of the class is 'how do you make money in sports and entertainment?'" Aukema said.
"They have to hire ushers, parking attendants, lease bus parking, find sponsors for the team, run a concession stand, negotiate contracts... you also have the option of converting your football stadium for music concerts," he said.
The computer program has four different levels of play, he said. To move up to a new level, students are required to make a certain amount of money.
The district's Youth Apprentice Program, which allows students to learn on the job, is also offered through the business department.
"It's a pretty rigorous program," Aukema said.
Students in the Youth Apprenticeship Program must meet certain competencies related to their job or risk failing, he said. The Youth Apprenticeship Program is a state-run program that generally takes one to two years to complete, he said.
Along with the Youth Apprenticeship Program, the district also offers the State Certified Co-op program, which is similar to the Youth Apprenticeship Program, but less rigorous, and the Employability Skills Certificate, which teaches general workplace skills like showing up on time and customer communication skills.
Aukema said about 24 students are enrolled in a work-related program, and of those about 10 are enrolled in the Youth Apprenticeship Program.
Students who complete the program are given a certificate and entered into a database, Aukema said. One student, who completed the apprenticeship at a local bank, applied for a job at another bank when she went to college. Aukema said the bank saw her youth apprenticeship on her resume and hired her on the spot.
"They knew, just by seeing that program on there, that she had the experience," he said.
Aukema and Nielsen said there's one class at New Richmond High School they would recommend to anyone and everyone - the personal finance class.
Nielsen said there was a push to require all students to take the district's personal finance class; however, with all the other classes students are required to take to graduate, the district felt it was too much pressure to require students to fit another required class into their schedules.
"It's required in a lot of other places," Nielsen said. "Maybe someday we'll get it here. If people would've had this class and learned about personal finances, maybe we could've avoided a lot of these foreclosures we've had."
Aukema said students learn a slew of skills in the personal finance class - from filing tax returns and budgeting to balancing a checkbook and buying a car.
"The amount of credit card debt and student loan debt that young people have today is incredible," Aukema said. "At this rate they're never going to reach the middle class, they'll be paying off that debt their entire lives."
Many of the district's business classes are tied directly to Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), a nonprofit educational association for middle school, high school and collegiate students who are interested in learning more about business-related fields.
New Richmond's FBLA team consists of 18 students, Nielsen said.
Several of those students competed at the regional leadership conference, in Cameron, Wis. on Saturday, Feb. 2. Many advanced to state which will be held in Wisconsin Dells April 14-15.
The students advancing to state include: Heather Halvorsen and Huana Nelson in global business (first place), CJ Kenney in intro to business communication (first place), Anne Frank and Colin Schroeder in management decision making (first place), Alex Charbonneau and Kennedy Kling in management information systems (first place), Emma Meisner in business calculations (third place) and Charlie L'Allier in business math (third place).
"The entire FBLA chapter represented New Richmond High School with pride," Nielsen said.