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Taylorsville Journal

Two programs teach students skills for success beyond the classroom

Mar 17, 2021 11:15AM ● By Darrell Kirby

Students in a Latinos in Action-Young Entrepreneurs class at Kearns High School go beyond textbooks and lectures to also learn skills to help them in college, careers and life. (Photo courtesy Andrew Busath)

By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Apply that oft-quoted saying to today’s high school classroom: Give a student a textbook and a lecture and you teach that student a lesson that may be retained only as far as the next exam. Teach students career and life skills and you give them the ability to function productively in the world well beyond their school years. 

That’s the premise behind a program at Kearns High School that blends an elective class called Latinos in Action and another elective course that stems from a national nonprofit program called Youth Entrepreneurs. 

Latinos in Action is a program that teaches Hispanic students skills for outside the classroom to help them become productive, responsible citizens. In a similar way, Youth Entrepreneurs helps Latino high schoolers better themselves and their communities through entrepreneurial activities as if they were real-world scenarios. 

Andrew Busath teaches LIA and YE, along with Spanish at Kearns High School. “A big part of the curriculum of Latinos in Action is social and emotional learning, service learning, teamwork, professional skills, financial literacy, relationships, self-discipline, self-awareness, all those things,” he said. “The fundamental values of Youth Entrepreneurs—responsibility, passion, freedom, being principled—it was such a natural fit (with Latinos in Action). It goes hand in hand so well.”

Whereas LIA has been one of the course offerings at Kearns High for a while, its fusion with YE came about somewhat as a result of restrictions imposed because of COVID-19. Busath says his LIA students tutor kids at nearby elementary and junior high schools three days a week. When the pandemic limited that face-to-face interaction, YE helped fill the gap with a combination of learning and doing, including activities like determining the need for a product or service, and conceptualizing, developing, marketing and selling it among fellow YE students. 

Another activity uses an age-old classroom entertainment—the paper airplane. “You tell the kids ‘you have 20 pieces of paper. You need to build and sell me a successful airplane’” within a certain time limit, Busath said. Success in this case is a paper airplane that flies at least 15 feet. A successful maiden voyage brings in $10, so students learn the relationship between creating a good product and earning a profit. 

Students also explored possible uses for an actual vacant lot in the community to determine what might increase the value of the property. 

Some students take these projects especially seriously. “There’s been some healthy and unhealthy competition in my classes. Some of these kids get a little strong and passionate,” Busath said, adding that’s not necessarily a bad thing in today’s environment of a participation trophy for everyone regardless of their efforts and contributions. That led one student to tell him, “You can compete and still help others at the same time.”

Now in his 13th year teaching at Kearns High School, Busath says LIA and YE spark a level of engagement and collaboration among the 200 participating students that otherwise might not occur. “YE has definitely rejuvenated the kids this year in coming back to school with something new to be excited about. “It’s definitely helped engage and keep the kids engaged where they look forward to those kinds of activities,” Busath said. 

LIA has a three-pronged approach to help lift students to greater achievement levels: college and career readiness curriculum, leadership development and literacy tutoring.

LIA classes must have an enrollment of at least 80% Hispanic students with the rest made up of any other racial and ethnic backgrounds. 

Latinos in Action is a national organization headquartered in Sandy, but its curriculum is being taught in various public and private schools in 11 states. 

Youth Entrepreneurs says its “educational model bridges the gap between textbook learning and practical application. It empowers teachers to innovate in their classroom and prepares students for success in the workplace and in life.” 

For Busath, the program would not have gotten off the ground at Kearns High School without support from the school’s leadership. “The administration’s been awesome. They give me the flexibility to try new things, to provide new opportunities for our students, so it’s been great.”

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