Stephen Krupka, a junior at the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technology Center (the Met School) in Providence, Rhode Island, has wanted to be a chef ever since he learned to cook at home. “I’ve always been interested in cooking and I watch a lot of the cooking shows on television,” he says. “I like the art and creativity of cooking.”
Krupka has taken his love of cooking into his business entrepreneurship class and has started to learn how he could convert that passion into a profession. Like hundreds of students around the country who are using the Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies curriculum (Ford PAS), Krupka is exploring a variety of business, engineering, and technology challenges designed to prepare him for postsecondary education and the workplace.
Known for its academic rigor—many of the participating sites offer college credit for the course—and hands-on activities, Ford PAS is also renowned for its adaptability. High schools around the country have developed creative and challenging courses with the curriculum modules all in hopes of setting the stage for their students’ advancement to higher education.
“Ford PAS brings together academic and technical skills to create activities that engage young people, have meaning for them, and help them invent a new future for themselves,” says Vivian Guilfoy, EDC senior vice president and director of EDC’s Education, Employment, and Community (EEC) programs. The curriculum is a collaboration of Ford Motor Company Fund, EEC, and EDC’s Center for Educational Resources and Outreach (ERO).
its five courses, Ford PAS fuses its academic, business, and technology
subject matter with the life skills that high school students are
working to develop, such as critical thinking, problem-solving,
teamwork, communication, and personal management. The modules, which
emphasize student participation and contributions, begin with an
introduction to the world of business, product development, and
manufacturing and go on to explore how businesses adapt to change, how
decision makers use and manage data, and how designers are meeting
twenty-first century challenges. The final section covers basic
principles of the global economy.
“Ford PAS helps students develop academic knowledge and practical skills that allow them to enter college and the workforce with confidence and competence,” says Jim Padilla, president and chief operating officer of Ford Motor Company. “We’re optimistic that Ford PAS graduates will be among the leaders of the next generation of science, engineering, and business professionals.”
The sites that use Ford PAS are intent on providing students with links to higher education. The Met School, for example, is an alternative high school that has jettisoned traditional grades and schoolwide lesson plans and instead allows students, working with a close group of advisors, to customize their learning paths and experience real-life work. The school’s focus on internships and projects—long-term, multifaceted, hands-on activities—makes the Met a fitting home for the Ford PAS materials. The curriculum is filled with student-created project activities, which become the means to learn about planning, troubleshooting, implementation, and follow up.
The Met School is a Big Picture School, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which draws a largely disadvantaged, at-risk student body. Almost all of the Met’s students go on to college—and three-quarters of them are the first in their families to attend college.
Using Ford PAS as a vehicle, high schools around the country are strengthening their relationships with colleges and universities and boosting their students’ readiness for higher education.
“It is so exciting that this program is getting the support from Ford to grow and be adapted in such diverse communities,” says Ilene Kantrov, director of ERO.
The Business School Deans Roundtable at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, for example, has recently launched a pilot program funded by Ford Motor Company Fund that will introduce Ford PAS to predominantly African American high school students who plan to go to college.
The collaboration “is focused on enhancing a student’s possibility of going to college and being successful in college,” says Barron Harvey, business dean at Howard University in Washington and founding chair of the Roundtable. “It also would probably highlight for the students who have not given strong consideration to college more information about the skills they will need to succeed in higher education.”
In a similar endeavor to develop college-level skills among traditionally underrepresented students, Ford Motor Company Fund and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) are folding Ford PAS into NCLR programs in five sites and four locations participating in the Gates Foundation Early College High School Initiative: Washington, D.C.; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Kansas City, Missouri; and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
In Miami, Ford PAS has become the instructional companion to an effort to re-engage students in their educations and to build career opportunities. Focusing on the needs of at-risk high school students, mainly Latino youth, Hialeah Institute, an alternative school of 180 students, will integrate the curriculum in grades 9–12 in areas such as design and product development, information systems, environmental sustainability, global economics, business planning, and marketing.
The program will “provide a high-quality learning experience,” says Guarione Diaz, president of the Cuban American National Council (CNC), which operates the school. A similar program will also be instituted at CNC’s Little Havana Institute in Miami.
Ford PAS is “proving to be an extraordinary attention-getter for the largely at-risk, Hispanic populations we serve in our high schools and in an out-of-school youth project,” notes Kevin Crain, vice president for advancement and government affairs of CNC.
The Ford PAS module “Managing and Marketing with Data,” which Stephen Krupka and his classmates use in Providence, is a good example of the many topic areas, skills, and ideas that the curriculum develops.
The lessons culminate in the creation of business plans, students’ detailed proposals to launch their own enterprises. As students work on their plans, classes offer instruction and practice with a host of business-oriented skills: designing marketing surveys and collecting data, identifying a target audience, analyzing market survey data, developing a marketing plan, budgeting for costs and revenues, calculating profits and losses, completing a break-even analysis and an analysis of the effect of supply and demand on prices. Students also debate ethical issues involved in marketing.
Students explore hypothetical cases, such as imagining themselves as marketing consultants to a rock band that wants to expand its audience or a company that wants to launch a new beverage to the youth market. Through teamwork and independent research, students apply the lessons of the scenarios to their own dream businesses.
In March, Krupka presented to his classmates his plan to open The Met Bakery, which would be located at the downtown campus of the Community College of Rhode Island, with its six floors of classrooms and office space. In his class presentation, he described his market survey, in which he asked people in the building about what foods they wanted, assessed which businesses he’d compete with, and noted strengths and weaknesses of his plan. Krupka estimates he could have 3,000 daily customers.
“Why would it succeed? The other products in the building are expensive and the current businesses there have not generated strong customer loyalty. I would mostly bake my own—about 200 pastries, muffins, and bagels, but I’d also need to buy some items from others,” he says.
As part of their learning, Krupka and his classmates use the Ford PAS Web site, which provides student resources such as data spreadsheets, on-line simulation software, links to a variety of Web resources, extension activities, and supplementary materials and readings. The Ford PAS print materials can be downloaded free or purchased at cost. Ford Motor Company Fund supports teacher training and offers online student and teacher centers on the Internet. The company also provides the resources for sites to work with a variety of community partners to facilitate field trips, locate guest speakers, and identify mentors from the business community.
For the students at the Met, the business plan is not a hypothetical project. It is their life dream made concrete. “This is not just a school project. I really plan to do this,” says Ciara Monroe, an eleventh grader who plans to work with group homes to improve and expand their services to teens.
Originally published on September 1, 2005