NextGen Bears Gives Students Real Business Experience
Students at Bertha-Hewitt High School are getting hands-on business experience through their innovative program – NextGen Bears – an entreprenuership program where students create custom products to sell online. Students do everything from collecting orders, working with customers, running the financials, designing the graphics, running laser machines, talking to customers, and deciding on pricing. Based on each student’s individual strengths, there’s a spot for them in the NextGen Bears program.
Another Option for Students
Ashley, a student at Bertha-Hewitt High School, is the Office Manager for the program, which means she takes calls, orders and works with customers to ensure they’re getting what they want. From there, students in the program use school hours to design the customer’s project, program it into the correct machine, create it, package it, and ship it out. Throughout the process, the students learn valuable lessons about business and teamwork.
Karla Weishalla is the Entrepreneurship Coordinator at Bertha-Hewitt High School and leads the NextGen Bears program. “Students learn how to interact with customers and talk to people on the phone, which they don’t regularly do,” she said.
The program has helped students feel more engaged in school. Hunter, a junior at Bertha-Hewitt, says he doesn’t feel as engaged in lecture courses, but is really focused and engaged when he is working on the NextGen Bears products.
Further, the school has noticed a direct improvement in absenteeism from students in the the NextGen Bears program. “It brings kids to school and gets them excited. I had a kid in the program last year whose mom told me there’s no way he would have graduated if it hadn’t been for this program. He missed over 30 days of school his junior year, then he got involved in NextGen Bears and missed less than 15 days of school his senior year,” said Eric Koep, Superintendent at Bertha-Hewitt Public Schools.
Koep is encouraging more schools in Minnesota to have programs like NextGen Bears to increase engagement, confidence, and perspective. Visit the NextGen Bears store.
MREA honored Bertha-Hewitt Public Schools as a 2021 Innovation Program Award Winner for their innovation, collaboration and unwavering commitment to get results for their students. Learn more about Innovation Awards.