From the outside, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy looks like your average private school, but this Christian school has a curriculum unlike any other in the US. CHCA offers unique, innovative and industry-leading programming in exceptional opportunities for students.
It is Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Program teach real-world problem-solving skills and develop leadership potential. An innovative approach to showing students what it takes to set up a business with no shortage of risk and reward, it keeps students abreast of society’s rapid changes. Far from boring, this program draws attention, forming an entrepreneurial mindset among students in grades eight through 12.
The goal is to equip future entrepreneurs with “book smarts” along with practical savvy. Active participation makes this possible. “We’re essentially creating a model where students are really engaged in real, hands-on innovative learning,” shared Director of Entrepreneurship Stephen Carter. “It reaches out to all students, not just certain segments of the student population, with practical training geared towards them being successful in life,” he added.
How is the entrepreneurial mindset introduced?
Guiding Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy are six key program benchmarks. They provide a system that ensures that every student actually acquires the necessary skills.
The first is a growth mindset. This refers to shifting the student’s fixed mindset to a more flexible one, according to the work of researcher Carol Dweck, it is a process that students are actively involved in considering. Failure is not an end it is an opportunity, and students begin to understand there is always room to grow and develop their abilities.
This is followed by perseverance and the redefinition of failure. Prospective entrepreneurs need to have passion and perseverance to achieve a goal. If they fail, they should see it as an opportunity to learn and grow from it. Perseverance and perseverance are the characteristics of great entrepreneurs and leaders in every area of business, and life. CHCA aims to develop those skills.
“When students express their definition of failure, we help them realize it’s not failure because they’re trying and in trying, they’re learning something and developing a growth mindset,” Carter said.
The fourth benchmark is looking for opportunities. Like seizing the hair of the bald god in the story from Greek mythology Caerus, students learn that problems are only hidden opportunities. The last two benchmarks — generosity and empathy, and effective communication — have events that challenge students to become avid communicators who know how to do the right thing.
Educating future entrepreneurs
The Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Program allows students to earn academic credit for courses specific to entrepreneurship — up to 12 elective courses are offered. Upon completion of a capstone project, they earn the honor of the “CHCA Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Certificate” (shown on the CHCA transcript, and considered for college credit at many universities).
Led by five full-time faculty members, there are five student-run businesses that allow students to escape the classroom walls as they work toward becoming visionary problem solvers, hardworking innovators, and empowered outside-the-box thinkers.
At CHCA’s Teaching Kitchen, students can run a kitchen as a business while they learn culinary skills and nutritional wellness for a healthy life. Recently, the school was accepted into the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative (TKC), a partnership of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America, joining companies such as Stanford University, Google, Compass Group and more.
At The Leaning Eagle Coffee Bar, they run a small business while minimizing its carbon footprint by practicing sustainable techniques. These include only serving in compostable cups, educating customers about direct trade coffee and its benefits to coffee farmers, and buying local milk in glass bottles that are returned directly to the dairy.
“Working at The Leaning Eagle has been a life-changing experience because I have gained an understanding of how businesses operate,” said student Bella Randle. “This is a class that everyone should take because it may change what you choose to pursue as a career.”
Meanwhile, the Eagle Farm and Greenhouse are unique spaces to highlight the farm-to-school cycle. It begins with students growing and harvesting a variety of foods, herbs and flowers in many garden spaces and then overseeing markets where their harvests are sold directly to consumers, including marketing, promoting and managing products and sales.
Students can extend their program to include internships and special projects. In year one of the business program, they hear a variety of perspectives from prominent business leaders in the school community and in large multinational corporations located in Cincinnati. Through podcasts, in-class speakers and readings on topics ranging from fixed vs. growth mindset, goal setting and creating an engaging tone, students are coached and mentored by industry professionals and real-life experts. Case studies and reflections allow them to apply what they learn in class to the student businesses they work in.
During the second year, students select and design projects that fit the themes of entrepreneurship, leadership and sustainability. This covers topics such as market validation, learning to pivot, and success metrics allowing students to apply the information directly to their own projects. The final presentation wrapped everything up, showcasing the budding entrepreneurs, and all they’ve achieved.
“This program not only inspired me to become an entrepreneur, but also empowered me with leadership skills, curiosity, and a love of coffee that I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” said graduate Megan Peck.
Teaching with an end goal takes on new meaning as we step into the world of business, entrepreneurship and sustainability. We truly train students for the world they will inherit, and give them the tools they need to be agents of change and impact. All while holding and cultivating a heart of service and kindness to others while always pursuing excellence in academics and in life.
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