Unique entrepreneurship program offered at Scituate High (Valley Breeze)

By JACQUELYN MOOREHEAD, Valley Breeze & Observer Staff Writer

SCITUATE – After being considered the underdog of Career and Technology Education pathway programs, Scituate High School has announced it will add a new Rhode Island Department of Education-approved Entrepreneurship Academy to its available disciplines this fall.

As the second RIDE-approved entrepreneurship pathway offered in the state, the school will offer a program that is as unique and flexible as its students, according to Principal Michael Hassell, who said the program is designed as an interdisciplinary course allowing students to work with students in other pathways to bring their ideas to life.

For example, he said, engineering students may help entrepreneurship students develop ideas into products, and computer science students could help with market research.

The additional pathway will bring the school’s offering up to four RIDE-approved programs, including the Engineering Academy, the Biomedical Academy and the Academy of Computer Science.

With the district spending a projected $1,015,027 on sending students for CTE programs elsewhere and potential incoming tuition revenue estimated at $150,000 for the 2019 school year, SHS needs to continue to create lucrative programs to both retain and attract out-of-district students, say school officials.

“We have a careful and thoughtful approach to building pathways,” Hassell said. “We’ve said all along, we build these for our kids, recruitment is an added bonus.”

Hassell said the school is working on two other programs currently, including the Visual Art Academy and the Performing Arts Academy. He said while trying to listen to students’ educational desires to figure out why students are leaving, the school also wants to provide programs that are not offered elsewhere.

“I think the Entrepreneurship Academy is another step in the right direction and makes us more unique,” he said.

The Cranston Area Career and Technical Education Center began offering an entrepreneurship program last year.

Hassell said the school has already seen interest and enrollment with SHS students, and will likely attract students from other districts.

The program was developed with the help of Dennis Ballou, SHS’s entrepreneurship instructor who said he is a “longtime entrepreneur himself.”

“Scituate High School’s entrepreneurship program has more flexibility than traditional finance programs. Those programs are rigidly focused toward careers in finance, whereas our program allows students the freedom to develop literally any idea as far as they want,” Ballou said.

With classes such as the “Shark Tank,” based on the television show, students will pitch ideas for products and have the opportunity to enter the school’s makerspace to create prototypes.

In the past, entrepreneurship students worked on several projects, including a day care for autistic children, a protective oven mitt for restaurant employees, and a redesign for contact sports mouth guards.

For the first project in the Entrepreneurship Academy, students will help develop a digital archive for historical documents for the Scituate Preservation Society, and develop and manage a new school store.

“I want to get the word out that we’re doing great things,” Hassell said.

Students across the state can apply to Scituate’s Entrepreneurship Academy online and begin taking classes in the fall, Hassell said.