Connecting Students to the "Real World"
Mar 11, 2016
by: Jennifer Warren, Evergreen High School
How many times have you, as a teacher, heard: “I didn’t learn anything practical in high school”? I’ve been asked, more times than I can count, why anyone “needs” Spanish or French to live a fulfilled life; and while I’ve not internalized it or allowed it be a crushing blow to my educator’s psyche, I have wondered how to give kids today more of the tools they need to survive AND thrive in the world we set them off into.
As the Business Teacher at Evergreen High School (EHS), Matt Erholtz is trying to revise some of those comments for the kids, giving them real world experiences, in class and out, they can take with them when they graduate and apply to their new reality. He has been teaching here and growing the program, for the past nine years. He has previously worked with Fortune 500 companies as well as start-ups, he knows his way around the industry and is now bringing the industry to the students at EHS.
DECA is one of the tools at Mr. Erholtz’s disposal. A competitive business group, DECA stresses leadership, and provides a place for kids to create and foster social and philanthropic ideas as well as business plans they eventually use in competition. The kids compete regionally, at the state level and nationally. This year EHS sent 60 kids to regionals, 26 to state with 3-6 making it to Nationals.
Mr. Erholtz has nurtured and grown DECA at EHS from single digits to a thriving program with close to 100 participants. Along with competitions, DECA runs the Cougar Cafe. This year alone, “The Coug” was able to donate a considerable sum, back to the school for a variety of programs and in building needs. DECA has also evolved from a small group of business minded kids to a program that sends kids to nationally ranked business schools.
New to Evergreen this year, thanks, in large part, to the encouragement and assistance of Cory Gilchrist, EHS will add another “real world” opportunity to its repertoire. Mr. Gilchrist, along with Mr. Erholtz and his colleague Mr. Zimmer, are bringing an “Investment Club” to the school. Created from private donations to the Evergreen Education Endowment, the club will give the students the chance to do see how the market functions.
Ten students, mentored by Mr. Gilchrist, will work with and learn from community/business members. They will be tasked with researching the markets and making recommendations to the foundation board regarding investments opportunities for money in the fund. As they go, they will learn the the ins and outs of investing real money. To date, it is the only public high school with an endowment that encourages (requires) student management.
For many students, high school will never be the “real world”. They will continue to ask, rightly or not, when they are going to use many of the things they learn during their four years. As the real world changes however, it’s the teachers who evolve along with it that will leave the biggest footprint on the psyche and experiences of our children. With extracurricular and curricular experiences like DECA and the nascent Investment Club, we can start making the knowledge more valuable while also closing the gap between high school and the “real world”.