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Steve Lunetta: Acoustic cakes and apparel

Right About Now

Posted: January 17, 2010 9:54 p.m.
Updated: January 18, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Stories about good kids and good programs get routinely ignored by most of the mainstream press and the majority of the news-consuming public.

All too often we are deluged by tales of kids doing the wrong things, getting in trouble and messing up by joining the Democratic Party and voting for Barack Obama.

Stories about good kids doing the right things are often few and far between.

Recently, I got to spend time with just such a group of high school students through the William S. Hart Union School District's ROP program at Golden Valley High School.

Taught by the very capable and energetic Summer O'Brien, the students at Golden Valley formed a "virtual company" called Acoustic Cakes and Apparel, allowing them to learn the basics of setting up and running their own enterprise.

Scary, isn't it? Teaching kids about forming businesses and participating in our free enterprise and capitalistic system? Liberals are shakin' in their boots.

A virtual company is one that really doesn't sell a product or service, but in all other aspects performs as a real business entity. The students create a marketing plan, advertising, Web site, sales documents and sample products.

Acoustic Cakes and Apparel "sells" cupcakes named after famous musicians. For example, Lennon Lemon, Chuck Berry Cherry and Santana Banana are offerings that can be "purchased" from the company.

A few times a year, the students get together with other ROP programs throughout the state and have a competition where the kids get to measure their efforts against other student-led virtual companies.

Last December, Summer asked me if I would be a chaperone for the group to go to the California Virtual Enterprise Trade Fair held in Bakersfield, the diamond of the central valley.

Naïve and trusting fellow that I am, I agreed to participate.

Oh boy. A trip to Bakersfield on a crowded, smelly school bus loaded with loud, obnoxious, screaming high school kids. Shoot me in the head.

Climbing into the yellow school bus for the trip, I was shocked to find a polite, respectful and intelligent group of highly motivated high school students.

I learned that the CEO of the company, Peter Yahiayan, was named Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year by the California Small Business Development Center's youth program.

He was also the subject of a Signal story last November by Tammy Marashlian, spotlighting rising young small-business people.

After speaking with him, I discovered Peter is a very intelligent and personable young man who is well-equipped to lead this fledgling enterprise.

The other students on the bus also showed tremendous talent and maturity: Max Dominguez, Erin Wallerstein, Krystal Smith, Michael Wright, Roxy Cardenas, Tim Lunetta, Angel Abadiano, Kyle Mijares, Russel Distefano, Nicole Melgar, Galen Flynn, Mark Farag and Luis Perez. Another member of the company, Shogik Yeremyan, was not able to make the trip.

We arrived in Bakersfield and made final preparations for the competitions the next day. Summer's remarkable dedication showed itself as she worked into the wee hours of the morning making sure all was ready for the big day ahead.

Dressed in their trademark pink and black business suits and dresses, the students attacked the day with energy and excitement.

Catalog, Marketing Plan and Trade Booth were some of the areas in which the kids matched skills with 100 other schools.

Erin Wallerstein competed in the Impact Marketing competition and won a second-place trophy for the company. This was the first time in this ROP program's history that it placed in a major competition. Major kudos to Summer, Erin and Acoustic Cakes.

More importantly, these students learned how to be successful in the business world.

I sure hope Joe Messina, Paul Strickland and the rest of the Hart district board are reading this. ROP and vocational education programs like this are what we need more of in the Hart district.

Not all students are cut out for college. In fact, it could be argued college would simply be a delay to the inevitable success of young entrepreneurs like Peter.

Folks, we need to spend less money on bigger pension programs for the education establishment and more money on programs like ROP.

Also, we need to hold out teachers like Summer O'Brien as the model for dedication and professionalism we expect for all teachers in our district and the state of California.

Steve Lunetta is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right About Now" runs Mondays in The Signal.


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