Marist High School held a ceremony to bless and officially open its new entrepreneurial center on Thursday, December 4, 2014. Administrators, donors, program mentors, and parents of students enrolled in the school’s new business class were in attendance.
The impetus for the new space and course came after young Marist alumni were surveyed, and results showed that business was the number one college major among graduates from the classes of 2007 to 2009. While Marist has always offered business courses, both administrators, social studies teachers, and alums felt that a class that provided more hands-on opportunities would help students excel at the college level. With that, Principal Larry Tucker ’79 and a team of teachers started to research curriculum and classroom models for a new business initiative.
At the same time, Marist alum Dan Gorsky ’79 was wrapping up an impressive private sector career, culminating in his role as Senior Vice-President of North America Supply Chain for McDonald’s Corporation. “I've always known in some way that I would enter the education field after my business career concluded,” Gorsky said. “And as I reflected more on my next step I knew I wanted to be in Catholic and family atmosphere that Marist provides.”
Tucker and Gorsky moved forward on designing the course and the space. “Today, the best learning requires a great curriculum, accessible technology, and innovative space,” Tucker explained. The room is a total departure from the traditional classroom. “The kids respond to it differently,” Gorsky explained. “They know it’s special, and they know it was made for them. They appreciate it, and it changes the way they conduct themselves inside the room.” In fact, at the door, a set of shelves were installed so students can put away their school books, and ‘get down to business’.
The course is designed to get students excited about becoming true entrepreneurs. Students will have the opportunity to create and fully develop their own product or service. Student teams will work through the process of ideation, market research, and business plan development. They will learn about marketing, accounting, and human resources, as well as the legal aspects of running a business. This is a hands-on course created to allow students to imagine, design, construct, market, and refine their own business ventures. The course will culminate in a pitch night to potential funders. Gorsky shies away from comparing it to the popular show Shark Tank because of its cut-throat nature. “I’d rather say dolphin tank”, he explained. “They are the most intelligent mammals in the ocean, and yet they are highly compassionate.”
Taking the course is not just for those planning on a career in business though. “I hope that each and every student takes away and can apply many life skills no matter what field they pursue or profession they desire for themselves,” Gorksy stated. Effective communication, understanding and tolerance of divergent viewpoints, teamwork, conflict resolution, and being able to adapt to setbacks are crucial skills for life and any career, he explained.
From the beginning of this journey, Marist alumni and parents have been part of the process. They represented a variety of business industries, and offered their input on meaningful classroom experiences, and many helped fund the room. Ten mentors emerged from summertime meetings. Each will work with one student team throughout the entire year, offering them their knowledge and experience, and providing motivation and support through any bumps in the road.
Additionally, industry experts will be regular presenters to the students. Already, Mary Tolan, an established entrepreneur who made her mark on the health care consulting industry, and Jan Fields (pictured), former president of McDonald’s U.S. have spoken to the classes.
For both students and parents, the space and program are exciting parts of the Marist experience, and incredible preparation for the future. “The center's space is ideal for students to learn from each other and make connections that will benefit them for years to come,” said Doug Olson ’84, whose son Carter ’15 is enrolled in the course.
This new course compliments Marist’s existing accounting, finance, technology, and rhetoric courses that help students prepare for business careers. In addition to the classroom, Marist has also installed a stock ticker in the cafeteria, and thanks to a donor’s generosity, the finance class now invests real money in the stock market.
For more information about this program, contact Mr. Dan Gorsky '79