The Susan Sargen Student Enterprise Program (StEP) is a nationally recognized elementary school program that has shown a marked increase in student engagement, attendance, self-esteem, academic achievement, and also increases educator effectiveness. StEP addresses two key educational needs at an early age: the need for classroom engagement and the need for 21st century skills related to entrepreneurship, critical-thinking, and financial responsibility.
In StEP, elementary students earn school currency for positive behaviors such as completing homework on time, arriving at school on time, showing academic achievement, and good behavior.
The Center provides an on-site school store (virtual store during the pandemic) four times per year, where students have the opportunity to purchase school supplies and novelty items. They can also choose to save their money each quarter and earn interest, or donate to a charity of the school’s choice.
Once the school currency is well established, elementary students switch roles from consumers to producers. Each classroom decides on the type of business venture it wants to create. Students complete job applications and interview for positions within the business. The annual finale event, Market Madness, draws approximately 1,000 students to the UC campus to showcase their classroom businesses. This unique and fun marketplace provides an opportunity for our young entrepreneurs to sell and buy their custom-made products.
Students in the K-12 classroom are our future economic drivers. It’s important to instill an understanding of fundamental economic and financial skill sets. Many students struggle to see the benefits of going to school and have a hard time making a connection to their future role in the “real-world.” These are skills that will last a lifetime, so the earlier those are developed, the stronger our economy will be.