BY CELA MIGAN–
A group of SHS students were invited and attended the event hosted by a program known as The Commons in order to witness the preliminary presentations of startups created by teams of college students and to decide whether a similar program could exist at the high school level.
The Commons is an entrepreneurial skills accelerator program, preparing students for the 21st century innovation economy as said by Joe Poeschl, one of the co-founders of The Commons.
“We teach students to think like an entrepreneur and that includes a lot of different types of skills. It’s not only the scientific part of it … The more difficult part is the art, science and attitude of entrepreneurship … The art part is something you have to practice a lot to get good at, and those are skills like being able to communicate, collaborate, think critically and be creative,” Poeschl said.
“A lot of our workshops dive into how to do those things and the experience itself helps students learn how to create effective teams and communicate properly … Attitude is ways of thinking, so persistence, resilience, being opportunistic and taking risks,” Poeschl said.
The Commons is a nine-week long program done in collaboration with 23 different colleges and universities in the Milwaukee area. The program starts with a kickoff weekend followed by workshops every Tuesday night and ends in a “Demo Day” in which the student teams present their startups.
Shorewood was one of the six high schools in the area to be invited to the test-run of The Commons presentations, in which they then gave critiques that contributed to the teams’ final presentations the following week on April 19.
“The student teams really delivered – it was great. [The students] saw some great presentations, but really they were just okay; they were great on ‘Demo Day. They were 10 times better, all of your feedback really helped … They did a lot of changes and they made them really good,” Poeschl said.
Lindsay Campbell, Joe Friedman, Maureen Patterson, Dayton Simenz, Luis Roche and Edison Wolniakowski, juniors, Avery Dedjoe, Shilei Bell Lipsey, Veronica Madell and Lilli Musto, sophomores, and Jack Hietpas and Cela Migan, freshmen, attended.
“I thought it would be an interesting opportunity and I thought the idea of integrating a business mentality into school could prove … interesting,” Madell said.
The trip was chaperoned by Evan Schmidt, French and economics teacher.
“The goal of the outing was to determine whether or not our students were interested in this type of program and it was to show the students that this organization exists,” Schmidt said.
The Commons is 18 months old and already exploring various methods of expansion, whether it’s program expansion with weekend-long hackathons or entire summer workshops, or geographic expansion in bringing The Commons to other cities or states, as well as market expansion as with working with corporate partners or bringing the program down to the high school level.
“What I want to know right now is are the students interested in doing it, and then going through that experience and what would be the best way to deliver that experience to the students,” said Tim Kenney, principal.
The Commons program high school edition would most likely start as a club and expand based on student interest.
“I’m very excited for the opportunities that this relationship will give to students and that it’s another example of what we’re trying to do here at Shorewood, to reach out to students with different interests … This is a kind of program that is geared to help build entrepreneurial skills and to show different ways that this exists in the real world,” Schmidt said.