COVINGTON, Ga. - When you walk in the front doors at the Newton College and Career Academy (NCCA), one of the first things you see is “The Lounge.” It is a hands-on, learning laboratory in the form of a coffee shop. It is run as a school-based enterprise by the students enrolled in the marketing career pathway.
Operation of The Lounge teaches students how to manage and market a retail business. Net proceeds help defray the costs for students participating in DECA, the career and technical student organization associated with the Newton County School System’s (NCSS’s) marketing career pathway.
“I am proud of the fact that if there is a regional competition, we can use the profit from the Lounge to pay or subsidize the costs of participation,” Tony Brooks, marketing instructor and department chair for marketing programs throughout the NCSS, said. “We are also able to fund a few scholarships.”
But The Lounge is not the only unique feature of the marketing career pathway offered in NCSS secondary schools. While the curriculum is designed to teach the fundamental principles and skills of management and marketing, it does so within the context of how those principles and skills can be applied within business sectors of interest to students.
“I teach marketing through fashion merchandizing and retail marketing as well as through sports and entertainment marketing,” Brooks said. “They both are designed to make marketing a little bit more ‘sexy’ to kids. If you say to kids that you are going to teach them marketing, they think of business and marketing and there’s no ‘flair’ to it. But when you say, fashion merchandizing and retail or sports and entertainment, that resonates with kids.”
That is what happens at NCCA. The same career pathway is offered at NCSS’s three high schools, but through different applications. At Alcovy High it is taught through hospitality and tourism, at Eastside High through entrepreneurship, and at Newton High through marketing management.
Though the four programs are in different buildings with different teachers, Brooks said, “We operate together. We try to take kids on field trips together.” For example, there is a plan to take DECA students to Greenville, SC for a program designed to help prepare them for regional, state, and national competitive events.
The marketing career pathway is a three-year program. “The first year we teach marketing principles,” said Brooks. “Second year we do more hands-on, project-based learning aimed at honing critical thinking skills. Students at NCCA are also introduced to our school-based enterprise. Third year students are the leaders. They engage in teaching, coaching, and mentoring first and second year students. They do more involved projects.”
Brooks said, “We try to get students involved with the community and ‘real-world’ projects where they can solve complex problems and understand what the world outside of school is like.” Brooks supports and encourages students in their efforts to find work experiences, either on their own or through the NCSS’s work-based learning programs.
Now in his third year Brooks and has seen his program grow and improve. “My first year we had 42 kids in DECA at NCCA,” said Brooks. “Second year it was 85; this year we are on track to have 125.” There are about 140 students enrolled in the NCCA marketing career pathway.
End of pathway test scores show improvement. Two years ago about 57 percent of Brooks’ seniors passed the nationally recognized test from MBA Research used to assess student learning. Last year’s pass rate was 67 percent. Brooks’ goal is to attain a pass rate above 85 percent.
“I am so passionate about this,” Brook said. “I get up every morning and am invigorated. I love coming to school. I love seeing the kids grow into their own. It’s just a wonderful thing for me. I am just excited about being here and making a contribution.”