Mindgram mixer gives students taste of success

Three students stand next to display that reads 'Company Purple 2, Imagine Having the Power to Heal'

On a recent weekday afternoon, piano music played softly as drinks were shaken and cocktails were passed as well-dressed entrepreneurs worked to interest investors in their business plans.

But the scene wasn’t a swank hotel or business center — it was the Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School Library Media Center. The drinks being passed were ginger ale. The checks being written by investors were fake. And the entrepreneurs were high school seniors.

Students look on as someone writes a check

The business mixer is just one small part of a 10-week program designed to give students a hands-on grasp of 21st-century business skills. The simulation, which is a partnership between Mrs. Scalise and Mr. Turner, takes 12th-grade Economics students through the process of starting and running a business.

“They get hired, learn how to pay bills, write checks and give presentations,” Mr. Turner explained.

The class is divided into “companies” that make computer chips. Some companies are competitors, making the same or similar product, and each company must buy and sell with others to get all the computer chips they need to make a product.

The process began with students writing resumes and cover letters. Teachers and administrators then conducted mock job interviews with the students, and mock companies were formed.

Mr. Turner has been running the “Mindgram” simulation for 20 years, but each year’s group of students brings something different to the process.

This year, Mr. Turner and Mrs. Scalise have incorporated student teams from Utica Academy of Science, where Mr. Turner works as a consultant. This introduces a new level of competition — or cooperation — into the experience.

Woman and two students stand at a table

At the business mixer, the “investors” included high school Principal Mrs. Tomaso, and teachers from Herkimer as well as UAS.

“This is so interesting!” one investor exclaimed.

While some students appeared hesitant to approach the investors, others hurried forward to introduce themselves, shake hands, hand out business cards and describe the benefits of their company to the people holding the blue checkbooks.

And while the activity looked and felt like an enjoyable social occasion, Mr. Turner pointed out that students were gaining important real-world experiences along the way.

“Balancing your plate of hors d’oeuvres and your drink while handing out your business card and shaking someone’s hand — that’s a real skill,” Mr. Turner explained as he looked around the room, adding, “They’re doing a good job of being resourceful.”

The simulation will continue through May, culminating in a Board of Directors meeting when teams will present an analysis of their companies’ performance.