1986 graduate Scott Harris speaks to members of the Vinton Popcorn class, encouraging a strong work ethic.

Marlo Higgins shares her Success Boarding program with students.

Students of Vinton-Shellsburg’s unique entrepreneurial class are in the middle of a 10-week pilot program, designed to build upon its mission of closing the gap between academic success and performance in the workplace.

The concept for the program focuses on leadership and personal development skills — areas that are typically not covered in classrooms at the high school or college level. Guest speakers, ranging from current and former executives to small business owners, join the class for one day each week, covering a variety of topics around personal development, leadership, and confidence.

James Mayhew, founder of Mayhew Coaching & Consulting, explained that the concept for a student leadership project occurred as he was working on a similar course designed for business professionals. He realized that the training modules he was building for adults could be easily implemented to high school and college-age students, giving them an advantage as they entered the workforce.

Mayhew was confident that the program would easily adapt into a high school curriculum, so he approached Vinton-Shellsburg High School Principal, Matt Kingsbury, last October.

“I believe we have a responsibility to share what we’ve learned in our own experiences to young adults. Most of us have experienced mentors:  teachers, coaches, parents and even bosses, but it’s typically a one-on-one experience. I wanted to create a way to impact many individuals at once,” Mayhew explained.

It was then that Kingsbury invited Aric Chvala, Business Educator, into the discussion.

“The vision for this class is to close the gap between academic success and success in the workplace. The entrepreneurial class that I facilitate was the perfect place to try it,” explained Chvala.

Students in the class are operating an actual business, Vinton Popcorn, and conduct all aspects of the business including sourcing, selling and distributing its product line to area stores, businesses and even other school districts. The students get to experience many of the same opportunities and challenges that they’ll face in the business world.

Chvala expressed his enthusiasm for the pilot program by saying, “The opportunity for these students to have distinguished business leaders come and speak directly to them is unlike any experience that I have ever seen.  We are very fortunate to get to learn from some of the very best.”

Kingsbury adds, “The lessons the students learn from the speakers, as well as the day-to-day lessons they learn from the entrepreneurial class, will have a positive impact on them as they transition into life after high school.”

One of the guest speakers was a former student. Scott Harris, a 1986 graduate of Vinton-Shellsburg and founder of Platinum Consulting, spoke to the class in early January. He told stories of several lessons he learned as a student-athlete and how that helped him in the business world.

“One of the best lessons I learned was to be your best. Don’t settle for a second-best version of who you are.”

James Mayhew ( http://www.jamesmayhew.com ) is a corporate image consultant, specializing in leadership training, organizational development, visioning and communications. James is a former executive for one of Iowa’s fastest growing companies, helping pioneer an innovative workplace culture based on freedom and responsibility that was recognized as one of the best in the state.