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School districts launch Center for Advanced Professional Studies program

St. Charles CAPS program participants. Credit: Greater St. Charles County Chamber of Commerce website

A partnership between the City of St. Charles and Orchard Farm school districts is opening doors to the future for high school juniors and seniors.

The St. Charles Center for Advanced Professional Studies [CAPS] was put into place this school year, with the goal of providing real-world business experience in a professional environment to foster student-driven learning and growth.

Located in the OPO Startups building on Main Street in St. Charles, it’s a place for creativity, hard work and collaboration among the young professionals who have office spaces in the building. In the early hours of weekday mornings, the Old Post Office welcomes the partnership between the school districts and its students.

“The students are the ones who are moving the program forward,” said Cheryl Graber, St. Charles CAPS instructor. “My job is to facilitate the learning process and to promote a curriculum that is project-based and provides for an authentic, real-world experience.”

St. Charles CAPS begins with one course, or strand, called Global Business and Entrepreneurship.

It teaches the students what it takes to start and run a business or develop a new product. Students gain a wealth of information from guest speakers who are either resident OPO entrepreneurs or other business professionals who stop by the OPO to discuss professional soft skills, business models, organizational flow, product design, etc. These talks are then parlayed into coursework that includes studying businesses on Main Street St. Charles and working on new start-up projects such as the OPO Cafe, a coffee shop business that will be 100 percent student-developed to include product procurement, marketing and store management.

Through working with local entrepreneurs and business leaders, CAPS aims to provide students with internships, mentorships and hands-on experience.

“What drew me into CAPS was that it sounded really interesting and like a good way to get real world experience while I was still in high school,” said Taylor Payne, a senior from Orchard Farm. “The OPO is a new environment that allows me to work in a space and collaborate with others without being confined to a desk or a specific routine each day, which is nice.”

St. Charles CAPS is in the process of becoming approved for college credit for participating students.

Photo caption: St. Charles CAPS program students, courtesy of St. Charles School District Newsletter, Sept. 8, 2017 edition.


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