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Middletown teens learn through experience how to run a business

JA Company Program keeps them busy and prosperous
Middletown teens mind their own business
Middletown teens mind their own business
Middletown teens mind their own business
Posted at 12:00 PM, Jul 22, 2016

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- While some high school students spend their summer making money working in restaurants or grocery stores, one group of Middletown teens hope to soon make a profit running their own business.

Teen Imprint is a business created by eight teens through a JA (Junior Achievement) Company Program. Through the program, which is offered as a pilot this summer by the Coalition for a Healthy Middletown, the teens learn about economics by creating and selling their own products.

“They went from a drawing on a paper to a logo that’s now going to be on a T-shirt,” said DeAnna Shores, program coordinator for the coalition.

The JA Company Program was the first program offered by Junior Achievement, a national organization created in 1919 to teach young people about entrepreneurship and financial literacy. Today, the program is one of 24 offered through the organization for elementary through high school students.

Junior Achievement of OKI (Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana) Partners works with 300 schools in the region, including those in Cincinnati Public and Hamilton City school districts. However, JA Company Program is less commonly featured than some of the organization’s newer offerings.

“It’s a pretty big commitment on the part of the teacher as well as the volunteers,” said Carol Lucio, executive director for the Butler County Office of Junior Achievement of OKI Partners.

Two different models of the program are available, with classes spanning 12 and 13 weeks respectively, in contrast with the five to seven sessions required for other JA programs.

When the program is offered, it’s typically in a specific class in school over the course of a semester, as is the case at Covington Catholic High School.

JA Company Program participants meet over a span of 12 to 13 weeks to learn about economics and develop their own business.

Over the course of the program, students meet with a teacher and volunteers to learn about topics like company structure, stocks, product design and customer service. In addition to receiving classroom lessons from instructors and business professionals, students get firsthand experience coming up with a company name, designating officers and designing and selling products.

“It’s really important to have that experiential component built in,” said Crystal Ford, lead volunteer for JA Company Program in Middletown.

With the guidance of volunteers from Middletown Rotary Club, Teen Imprint members designed T-shirts, adult coloring books and coffee mugs. The teens will sell their products July 27-30 at SoulCraft Studio in Middletown. They also will hold a liquidation sale Aug. 3 during Middletown’s Broad Street Bash.

The purpose of the program in Middletown is two-fold, Shores said. As one of the coalition’s offerings, it serves as a substance-abuse prevention effort by giving kids access to structured and supervised time. It also provides economic opportunities and education.

“A lot of this information for the youth at present and in the future will allow them to become well-rounded and effective members of society,” Ford said.

For the teens involved, the benefits have extended beyond the intended purposes.

“Just to see their creativity sparked and their ideas come alive is invaluable,” Shores said.

The sense of ownership they’ve gained from their involvement in the business also has helped boost their confidence.

“It’s allowing them to realize they are capable of so much more than they realize, and they can make a difference, they can make an impact, and they are our future,” Ford said.

Students in the JA Company Program create their own business and design and sell products.

The students weren’t the only people who benefitted from the program. Some volunteers also gained a new perspective while working with the youths.

“It’s given me an appreciation for the student generation,” said Rotarian and JA Company volunteer Lou Christy.

Despite its intensive nature, Coalition for a Healthy Middletown representatives hope to make JA Company Program an after-school program in the area, with multiple groups of students running pop-up businesses during the summer months.

“I think the goal is to give the students some grounding in practical economics and an appreciation for our free-enterprise system,” Christy said. “And I think it can accomplish that.”