Forget Donald Trump’s Apprentices—if you want an event done well, get some high school students. Specifically, ask for Dave Robinson’s class at Port Perry High School in Port Perry, Ontario, about an hour from Toronto.
The senior-year students in Robinson’s interdisciplinary business course have raised about $40,000 through planning and implementing everything from a haunted house to writing and staging a theatrical production. Each event requires setting objectives, selecting a venue, designing a theme, and establishing timelines, not to mention working as a team, conducting research, and developing a sponsorship prospectus. At the end of each event, students must produce an event manual—essentially the history of the event—and the students complete a portfolio of their events they can use when they go off to college and the business world.
A portion of each event’s profits go to charity; the rest of the profits stay within the school for various programs, such as one that sent the school’s business and history students to France for the 2004 ceremonies commemorating the D-Day landing on Juno Beach. Robinson’s passion for his students and his community is infectious—he has no problem getting sponsorships and in-kind goods.
To prepare for Robinson’s course, students take demographics, research, marketing, computer, and entrepreneurial business courses. Then they get to put all the theory they’ve learned into practice in their senior year.
Robinson, whose course has won the Learning Institute’s Award for Innovative Teaching, holds a "corporate meeting" each day with each team for an update on how their plans are going and where they are on- or off-course with their business plan. After each event, the students evaluate each other as well as the overall event.
In this day of cutting funding for education, of moving students forward when they aren’t ready, of schools not having music, art, and other imaginative and creative classes and outlets, kudos to Port Parry High School for having such an innovative program and for having the foresight to bring Dave Robinson onboard!
Sandy Biback, CMP, CMM, is the owner of Imagination+ Meeting Planners Inc., a full service meeting management and consulting firm in Toronto. She is also an adjunct professor at George Brown College and an active member of MPI and IMPAC. She can be reached at biback@ImaginationMeetings.com. She hopes her passion for her students holds a candle to Dave Robinson’s.