LHHS Seniors learn business fundamentals while raising funds for charity
(Photos and video by Jennifer Reiley and Claire Wilkison)
(Posted: April 12, 2010)
Liberty Hill High School teachers and staff lined the hallways one day recently waiting to buy lunch from students who opened a one-day lunch counter as a project for economic class. For a $5 donation to the March of Dimes, school employees got a break from the routine and enjoyed homemade Mexican food.
Economics teacher David Runnels said it was all about teaching students how to start and run a business, and the beneficiary was the March of Dimes -- a charity that seeks to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality.
Runnels, a second-year teacher with LHISD but a veteran educator with experience in Austin, Del Valle, Bosqueville and Valley Mills schools, started the class project with last year's seniors in his economics class. It raised $542 then compared to $1,460 last week.
"What we did here was tie everything together into a living lesson," he told Radio Free Liberty Hill.
For one week, students created a small business and learned the fundamentals of budgeting, marketing, selling products, managing personnel, and finally, determining the profits. Small teams of students set a fundraising goal and devised a business plan for meeting that goal. Each student had certain responsibilities and the team kept track of the number of hours worked and other expenses. At the end of the week, each group compared their income with their expenses, and in the process learned that owning a small business is quite a difficult challenge. All of the money raised went to the March of Dimes.
"The team learned how to really perform inside of a business," he said. "And in the end, they had to decide which employee (classmate) they would have let go because he or she wasn't producing at the level that was needed for the business to be successful. They saw how easy it is to fail in a business."
Runnels said the Mexican food luncheon was the biggest money maker. Students on that team and their families prepared the food at home and served the meals at school. Students on that team will be treated to a pizza party by the March of Dimes in the coming weeks. But, in addition to the Mexican food lunch for staff, other fundraising projects included a bake sale, a car smash, homework passes, stress reliever balls, and guesses for the amount of candy in a jar.
Runnels said some of the ideas were more successful than others, and students had to offset low sales by adjusting prices -- much like real businesses must do when trying to move products.
Students also bought votes to choose staff members who would kiss a pig at the end of the project. Assistant Principal Dee Dee Kristan and Teacher Rob Penny wound up with the most votes and took their turns kissing a pig during the advisory class period on Friday with the entire student body watching.
Runnels said this year's projects also involved the community. Some businesses set milk cartons on their counters to accept donations, and students sold March of Dimes raffle tickets for $20 for a chance at winning a new car. The winner of the raffle, which will be announced May 8, receives a 2010 Mazda CX-7. Only 4,000 tickets will be sold in the Central Texas raffle.
Runnels said he agreed to shave his head if collectively the students raised at least $1,000. On Friday, his head was shaved in front of hundreds of students and fellow employees as the classes far exceeded their fundraising goal.
"Mostly, the students said that running a business is a lot of work," he said. "Of course they were having fun, but when it comes time to show a profit, they realized how hard it really was."
"I tell them this is an everyday thing for business owners, and it isn't as simple as they thought. I was very impressed with the students," he added.
"Students can't learn how business or the economy works by sitting behind a desk," he said. "They need to go out there and do things."
Runnels has 152 students this semester in four economics classes and two Government classes.