MONROE – A “Shark Tank”-like program, pairing captains of industry with pools of would-be student entrepreneurs, is making major gains at Monroe Township High School.
In the culminating event following months of work, two groups of students from Monroe’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Club (IEC) unveiled their final business models to a panel of judges – a collection of hand-selected community members who hail from various professional backgrounds – on Oct. 17 at the high school.
According to school administrators, one student group’s business model proposes using technology and specifically, the integration of an online ordering system to improve the customer experience and the efficiency of restaurant services. A second group is introducing a visual presentation software that would allow users to create virtual laboratories without any prior computer coding experience.
Pitching all aspects of a traditional business plan from patenting to financial assessment and technology specifications, students from the IEC hope to gain critical feedback from the panel regarding the long-term viability of their respective products, according to information provided by the township.
“The intention is to provide students with applicable knowledge and increase their marketability in the eyes of top-level universities and employers,” Edgar Esteves, a Monroe Township High School biology teacher and faculty adviser to the club, said in the statement. “From another practical standpoint, including both the student and business perspectives, everyone involved here is a stakeholder in the future global economy. In this case, we’re just making introductions at an earlier stage.”
Last year, Monroe resident Richard Ash, director of the Entrepreneur Center at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, became a driving force behind the creation of the club, a newcomer to programming at the high school.
Recently, Ash arranged for a video conference between Red Lobster CEO Kim A. Lopdrup and IEC students, who looked to this corporate powerhouse as a springboard for ideas, according to the statement.
“Dr. Ash offered to help with instructing students on how to be an entrepreneur – the legal aspects, the financial plans – all of it,” Monroe Superintendent Michael Kozak said in the statement. “The goal is to help students develop skills that will lead them to be successful in college and in their careers by partnering them with members of a corporation. This way, students can learn about various careers and what skill sets would be necessary to be in that career field.”
In addition to Esteves, high school faculty advisers including Eugene Giaquinto and Varsha Sharma have been instrumental in the progression of these ambitious student projects.
“I think that we’re on the right course with our students,” Sharma, a chemistry teacher at the high school, said in the statement. “We’re building a positive relationship between our students and their surrounding community. At the same time, we’re equipping our future leaders with an authentic learning experience that they will benefit from for years to come.”