From the outside, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy looks like your typical private school, but this Christian school has a curriculum unlike any other in the US. CHCA offers programming that is unique, innovative, and leading the industry in exceptional opportunities for students.
Its Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Programme teaches real-world problem-solving skills and develops leadership potential. An innovative approach to showing students what it takes to set up a business with no shortage of risks and rewards, it keeps students in tandem with a fast changing society. Far from boring, the programme holds attention, shaping an entrepreneurship mindset in students in grades eight to 12.
The goal is to equip future entrepreneurs with “book smarts” along with practical savvy. Active participation makes this possible. “We are essentially creating a model where students are truly engaged in true, hands-on innovative learning,” shares Director of Entrepreneurship Stephen Carter. “It reaches all learners, not just certain segments of the student populations, with practical training that is geared to set them up for success in life,” he adds.
How is the entrepreneurship mindset introduced?
Guiding Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy are six primary programme benchmarks. They provide a system that ensures each student actually gain the required skillsets.
The first is a growth mindset. This refers to shifting a student’s fixed mindset to one that’s more flexible, following the work of researcher Carol Dweck, it is a process the students actively engage in considering. Failure is not the end it is an opportunity, and students begin to understand there is always room to grow and develop their abilities.
This is followed by grit and a redefinition of failure. The aspiring entrepreneur needs to have passion and perseverance to achieve a goal. If they fall short, they should see it as an opportunity to learn and grow from it. Grit and tenacity are defining traits of the great entrepreneurs and leaders in every field of business, and life. CHCA aims to develop those skills.
“When students express their definition of failure, we help them realise it’s not failure because they tried and while trying, they learned something and shaped the growth mindset,” says Carter.
The fourth benchmark is opportunity seeking. Like seizing the hair of a bald god in the story from Greek mythology of Caerus, students learn that a problem is just a disguised opportunity. The last two benchmarks — generosity and empathy, as well as effective communication — have events that challenge students to become avid communicators who know how to do the right thing.
Educating the entrepreneurs of the future
The Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Programme lets students earn academic credit for courses specific to entrepreneurship — up to 12 elective courses are offered. Upon completing a capstone project, they earn an honoured designation of “CHCA Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Certificate” (shown on a CHCA transcript, and considered for college credit at many universities).
Led by five full-time faculty members, there are five student-run businesses that let students escape the walls of a classroom as they work towards becoming visionary problem-solvers, hard-working innovators, and empowered outside-the-box thinkers.
At the CHCA Teaching Kitchen, students get to run a kitchen as a business as they learn culinary skills and nutritional wellbeing for a healthy life. Recently, the school was admitted into the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative (TKC), a partnership of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America, joining the likes of Stanford University, Google, Compass Group, and more.
Over at The Leaning Eagle Coffee Bar, they manage a small business as they minimise its carbon footprint by practising sustainable techniques. These include only serving in compostable cups, educating customers about direct trade coffee and its benefits to coffee farmers, and purchasing local milk in glass bottles returned directly to the dairy.
“Working at The Leaning Eagle has been a life-changing experience as I have gained an understanding of how a business operates,” says student Bella Randle. “This is a class that everyone should take because it might just change what you choose to pursue as a career.”
Meanwhile, the Eagle Farms and the Greenhouse are unique spaces to highlight the farm-to-school cycle. It starts with students planting and harvesting a wide variety of food, herbs, and flowers in the many garden spaces and then overseeing the marketplace where their harvest is directly sold to consumers, including marketing, promoting, and managing the product and sales.
Students can extend their program to include internships and special projects. In year one of the business programme, they hear a variety of perspectives from top business leaders in the school community and in large multi-national companies located in Cincinnati. Through podcasts, in-class speakers, and readings on topics ranging from fixed vs. growth mindset, goal setting, and creating a compelling pitch, the students are coached and trained by industry professionals and real-life experts. Case studies and reflections let them apply what they learn in class to the student business they work in.
During the second year, students choose and design a project that fits within the themes of entrepreneurship, leadership, and sustainability. This covers topics such as market validation, learning to pivot, and metrics of success allow students to directly implement the information to their own projects. A final presentation wraps things up, showcasing the emerging entrepreneurs, and all they’ve achieved.
“The programme not only awakened my passion for being an entrepreneur, but also empowered me with leadership skills, curiosity, and a love of coffee I’ll carry for the rest of my life,” says graduate Megan Peck.
Teaching with the end in mind takes on a new meaning when we step into the world of business, entrepreneurship, and sustainability. We are truly training students for the world that they will inherit, and giving them the tools they need to be the generation of change and impact. All while holding and cultivating a heart of service and spirit of kindness to others while always pursuing excellence in academics and in life.
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