These days high school students need everything they can get to get ahead, and schools are trying to prepare them for the real world by offering special classes and joining clubs that teach students how to succeed. Business technology classes, Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and entrepreneurship classes at Alton High School help students prepare for what might be ahead of them after graduation.
"One of the things that comes to mind that we do that I've had kids after they've graduated come back and say I'm so glad (we did this) is that we job shadow," Sandy Ross, business technology and entrepreneurship teacher and FBLA sponsor said.
Ross said job shadowing is in the curriculum for business technology. Students in this class fill out a career profile and Ross finds someone with a job each student is interested in, and the student observes that person at their job.
"Before we go job shadow, they take it pretty seriously, we do a whole unit on careers. They take various assesments to determine what would most closely match their interest and their abilities. Based on the assesment there are suggested careers, and they research those careers. What we try to do is fit them with a business that most closely matches what it is that they are interested in doing. They do resumes, cover letters, job applications and then they end the whole thing with a job shadow. They just spend the day with someone in their career choice, and they love it," Ross said.
"The kids just really learn a lot," Ross said. "They come back very excited, and they're gung-ho, they're ready to continue their education at that point. It's a really neat thing that we get to do."
FBLA is a program that teaches students business skills. "We give the kids opportunities to compete in various business related events. We give them a chance to take leadership roles for various activities that we participate in," Ross said.
"One of the neatest things we've done this year is Alton Cares," Ross said. "It's actually, sort of, a volunteer/service project that we kind of adopted. In a nut shell, what we do is we work with a business in town, (called) Swifts ISL (Independent Supported Living)."
She said those in FBLA work with people with disabilities at the facility and plan green activities, like recycling and planting trees, for them after school. "It's just a lot of fun," Ross said.
The entrepreneurship class is where students apply what they have learned about business to a real world situation. "In entrepreneurship we actually run the senior concession, and they (students) are responsible for everything that you do when you run a business -- scheduling workers, managing workers, ordering products, pricing products (and) doing all the accounting," Ross said.
"They (the students) have to work outside of school. They have to work at ball games. There's usually a manager from the class that I appoint to supervise the other senior workers who are at the games," Ross said.
Students in the entrepreneurship class also get to create business plans and learn how to write grants for something school or community oriented.
"I think the skills they (students) learn in those kinds of classes (business classes), they may not be the future Donald Trump entrepreneur, but I think they can apply the skills they learn to lots of situations. They can learn to be a better employee because they had to work as the boss or the manager for these (students), and they don't like it when kids don't show up when they're scheduled to work. They don't like those things," Ross said. "Or they don't like it if there are students that are just standing around. So, I think it makes them better employees, and if we're lucky enough to have some to own their own business, then, hopefully, some of the things they've learned in this (the business classes) will also help."
"The main focus, again, is just preparing our kids for beyond. It's just what we do in our school," Ross said.