Stars Program is a Huge Success
"It's a class I actually look forward to going to."

That was a testimonial from one member of the Copenhagen Central School business computer application class, which in January opened a student-run embroidery company, Designs by Knight.

"They are going to use everything that they learned in here," business teacher Pat L. Jolliff said of the class, which included 11 seniors, two juniors and two sophomores.

Mrs. Jolliff, technical coordinator Darlene M. Rowsam and technology integration specialist Margaret "Peg" Nevills were staff advisors for the business.

The school district last year purchased an embroidery machine through its STARS program, or Strengthening Teen Assets in Rural Schools, which is funded through a federal 21st Century Learning Communities Grant.

After receiving instruction from Sarah C. O'Connell of the Small Business Development Center at Jefferson Community College, the class officially opened its company Jan. 2, although a limited number of orders was received and filled in December.

Students, after submitting job applications, were placed in one of three departments: advertising, accounting and production.

"They got to do what they were good at," Mrs. Jolliff said.

While the initial plan was to shift jobs every five to seven weeks, most students decided to stay at their positions for the entire 51/2 months, Mrs. Rowsam said.

"They took a lot of ownership in their job responsibilities," she said.

The class also selected managers in each department, along with a chief executive officer, senior Blair Kiernan.

Students consulted with school auditors and state Department of Taxation officials while setting up the business, developed a business plan, made numerous business telephone calls and held regular meetings. The class also visited Victory Promotions in Watertown.

"They rose to the responsibility and expectations," Mrs. Nevills said. "Treat them like adults and they'll act like it."

"They were very professional," said Thomas D. Wojcikowski, the school's STARS program coordinator. "It was very businesslike in the class."

Four seventh- and eighth-grade students in the STARS after-school program also helped with the business, Mr. Wojcikowski said.

Many of the garments produced by the student-run company were school-related, including band uniforms, Mrs. Rowsam said. And, because of its relatively low overhead, Designs by Knight was able to offer parents a cheap alternative to other suppliers, she said.

The company also has filled custom orders for several organizations, such as the Copenhagen Fire Department and the Lewis County Code Enforcement Department.

Through mid-June, Designs by Knight boasted sales of $4,287.96. All proceeds will be used either to help expand the business or to fund extracurricular student programs.

The district recently received an $11,000 grant from the Northern New York Community Foundation to buy a second embroidery machine.

The program also has been supported through grants of $1,000 from the Lewis County Youth Bureau and $500 from the school district's Youth Advisory Council, along with donations from satisfied customers. Climax Manufacturing Co., Lowville, provided some packaging for outgoing garments.

Mrs. Nevills plans to keep the business open - on a limited basis - over the summer, likely with help from students in the school's summer recreation and learning programs.

Copenhagen Central School students involved in the Designs by Knight embroidery business were asked to write reflections of their experiences. Here are a few excerpts:

* "I was not sure when we first started how this would run, but I'm very pleased with the way everyone has stepped up and taken on such responsibility. Being CEO of the company has taught me the responsibility of time management and meeting deadlines on time." - Blair Kiernan.

* "I feel that this class can be very profitable for the school and will also teach students the means of business." - Doran Johnson.

* "This class has helped me realize how hard it would be for someone to start up an actual entrepreneurship. There is much more work than I had thought." - Andrew Godlewski.

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