A new, exciting curriculum was introduced to St. Paul’s campus in February. Students in the business program now have the unique opportunity to work in a PJ’s located in the newly renovated Benilde Hall. The cafe provides hands-on experience to students in several different sectors of the business program. For example, students in Coach Drivon’s class keep the books. Students in Mr. Logarbo’s entrepreneurship class were the ones who got the cafe up and running, and they manage the business. They also create equations to improve margins and maximize profits. Mr. Pellegrini’s law classes look over contracts and other legal aspects of the business. PJ’s was chosen because of the school’s connection to the company (Paul and Scott Ballard, who own PJ’s through Ballard Brands, LLC, and both have sons at St. Paul’s), as well the fact that the coffee shop model provides a perfect business lab for students hoping to gain real working experience.
While many St. Paul’s students are excited to have a coffee shop on campus, those interested in pursuing business and entrepreneurship are ecstatic to have an opportunity to apply the things that they have learned in class in a real-world setting. In the same way students in Chemistry apply concepts they learn in class in a laboratory setting, the PJ’s in Benilde Hall is the new business lab. Mr. Logarbo likened the new curriculum to a capstone course in college or grad school. A capstone course is a group project in which students demonstrate that they have mastered the skills that will be necessary for their degree or field. “The work students do in the coffee shop is really the culmination of the business path at St. Paul’s,” Logarbo explained. “A lot of stuff that these kids are experiencing in this lab are things that you won’t see until your MBA program.”
The curriculum has absolutely exceeded expectations in its first few weeks. The PJ’s has quickly become one of the most crowded places on campus. It is only a matter of time before the lab outgrows the space it currently operates in. It is clear to staff and students alike that eventually the PJ’s will be forced to expand elsewhere on campus to keep up with growing demand. This rapidly increasing demand is driven in part by the creativity of business students. “The guys who work in that shop are constantly innovating and coming up with new drinks, which is really encouraging them to be creative and solve problems in real time,” said Mr. Logarbo. All the buzz has made younger students more eager to follow a business path. Eighth-grader Max Biggs remarked, “I definitely want to take business all four years so I can get the experience of working in the PJ’s.”
The new curriculum would not have been possible without the support of the Ballard family. Ballard Brands has allowed the shop in Benilde Hall to function as a franchise and has made all of the Brand’s resources available to Mr. Logarbo and his students. The Ballard family has clearly made a huge investment in the business program at St. Paul’s and has been key in providing students with an opportunity very few high schools can offer.
Perhaps the most important and impressive facet of the business lab is the involvement of SPS CORE pack students. Students in the school’s special education program will receive valuable experience working in a functional coffee shop. “The involvement of the CORE pack was always a very key part of our plan for the curriculum,” Logarbo said. CORE pack students will help sell and make drinks, as well as learn how to operate some of the equipment.
Andrew, I thought you’d like to read about this concept going on at SPS.