ERC5 donates $20,000 to Minnechaug's Y.E.S. program
By Chris Mazachrism@thereminder.com
WILBRAHAM The East of The River Five Town Chamber of Commerce (ERC5) made a donation of $20,000 to the Minnechaug Regional High School's Youth Entrepreneurial Scholars (Y.E.S.) program on Dec. 19.
ERC5 Board President Lou Curto said that the donation represented a very real interest in ensuring that local students have the opportunity to obtain the resources necessary to be ready for the business world.
"At the end of the day, it's always about things that we want to make sure students have the opportunity to get to," he said.
The Y.E.S. program and the ERC5's support of it, Curto added, has become a standard for other school districts and chambers of commerce to follow.
"This program that we have been involved with is a plan that other school systems are looking at," he said. "We had a gentleman down from Holyoke and they are looking into this program and we had a gentleman down from Quaboag Valley Chamber [of Commerce] to look at it, so we use the term benchmark quite a bit and I think it's just as appropriate to use that term here."
Principal Stephen Hale thanked the program not only for its monetary donation, but its overall participation in the initiative.
"Your donation and your generosity is very much appreciated, but your involvement in the program has brought us this far," he said. "We can't do any of these things without the involvement of local businesses."
Minnechaug's business program has experienced significant growth over the past decade or so, Hale said, explaining that the school's administration has put an emphasis on making sure its curriculum properly prepares students for the future.
"Twenty or so years ago, [business class] was where you went if you weren't very good in math. It was really designed for training office personnel," he said. "Ten years ago under Principal [John] Logan and continued under Principal [now Superintendent M. Martin] O'Shea, we started looking at this and saying, 'How can it be that we're sending kids to schools like Bentley and their transcript has a ton of AP courses, but zero business courses?'"
With the help of those principals, the school has since added a program that has made internships available to students and created a curriculum that was "more real-world relevant."
Joanne Weisser, a teacher in the Y.E.S. program, explained that among the recent additions to the curriculum is a class called E-commerce because "if you're not on the web, you're not really in business" entrepreneurship and sports marketing and management.
Sheldon Davis, a senior, told the ERC5 that both programs offered unique insight into the business world.
The sports marketing and management course, in which students built a "fantasy" sports franchise, emphasized several aspects of business, he said, not the least of which was team-building and developing the ability to work with a group to formulate a successful business plan.
The entrepreneurship course, he said, taught him to utilize his creativity, which he has since parlayed into a deejay service he recently created.
Weisser added that the school also hoped to obtain new software to perform virtual business simulations.
Career counselor Paula Talmadge explained that the school's business and career-oriented programs now address students at all grade levels. All ninth-grade students take a career interest diagnostic and by sophomore year are participating in a career readiness program. By 11th and 12th grades, the students are participating in internships and business partnerships, learning about the application process and taking advantage in job presentations by members of fields varying from engineering to health care.
The internships offered through the school include the Doctors Express office on Cooley Street in Springfield, the Friendly Ice Cream Corp. executive office in Wilbraham and Monson Savings Bank.
Hannah Tarpey, a senior, told the members of the ERC5 gathered at the high school that her internship opportunity with the Wilbraham Department of Public Works helped her make the decision to pursue civil engineering in college.