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Students share thoughts at Chamber’s 35th annual High School Business Symposium

By Staff | Nov 18, 2016

Chronicle photo by Toni Milbourne Jefferson High schooler Ethan Gottlieb shares the thoughts of his group at the Business Symposium held at American Public University on Tuesday.

The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce hosted their 35th annual High School Business Symposium Nov. 15, bringing together high school students and local business leaders to share ideas and thoughts on the business climate in Jefferson County. The students were selected by school counselors as top students in business and marketing classes from both Washington and Jefferson high schools.

Students were matched with representatives from local businesses and spent time interviewing them. After learning information about each business leader, the students then had to stand and introduce their leaders to the entire group. The goal of this initial exercise was to get the students up and speaking in front of a group.

The students then were given three questions over which to deliberate. The first asked what the students felt Jefferson County Schools had done to prepare them for life beyond high school.

Students cited such activities as the Business Symposium as a plus for their education. They also shared that the business departments at both Washington and Jefferson high schools offer certification programs in things like Microsoft Office, giving the students a leg up upon graduation. Technical training at James Rumsey was also a plus for students.

The group this year was very well represented by the Jefferson High School Air Force JROTC. The students who participate in this program shared that they receive many life skill lessons that they find invaluable. Students who are not a part of this group shared that they believed such life lessons as resume writing, learning how to balance a checkbook or learning how to file taxes are things that all students should have the opportunity to learn.

Students in both schools condemned the LINKS program, a program that has been mandated by the state with varying topics that are to be discussed during special sessions set aside during the school hours. Jefferson students say they have ‘LINKS’ once a month for two hours.

“It’s a joke,” several were heard to say. “The teachers don’t take it seriously so we don’t either,” was another common sentiment.

Washington High offers their ‘LINKS’ sessions once a week for a half hour. The students in that school also said the sessions are not taken too seriously and with that short a time, they do not get much benefit from a discussion. The students shared that perhaps having the sessions twice a month for an hour each time might work better. They also shared that the topics need to go beyond suicide prevention and cyber-bullying-what they say have been the only topics discussed at any length all year.

Students were then asked what they would change about their schools.

The comments regarding LINKS again surfaced in this portion of the discussion. Several Jefferson High students said they would eliminate the “Cougar Hour” which is an hour long period each day where all 1,600+ students are released for lunch and to attend clubs, socialize, etc.

Students said trying to get through the lunch line is very difficult and there is often no time to eat. The students said they would much prefer a “study hour” at the end of the day, especially athletes, who have hours of practice each


Washington students, on the other hand, said that if Jefferson has Cougar Hour, they would like to have Patriot Hour.

Students also indicated they would have more teachers teaching Advanced Placement classes. This year, the shortage of teachers willing or able to teach these classes has led to online instructors. Students shared they would much prefer a live teacher-that they learn much better in that fashion.

When asked what would keep them in Jefferson County after graduation, students responded with the suggestions that more jobs need to be available within the county-and not just small business or fast food jobs. They shared that businesses need to be more forthcoming in promoting themselves to students so that awareness of what is in the county is more known.

In addition, the students consistently said that there needs to be more recreational activities as well as affordable housing in Jefferson County.

After a lunch break, students gathered for an activity hosted by Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, that required them to take a variety of objects placed in a paper bag and create a product.

The students then had to present their project to the group in a way to make others want to purchase it.