Excitement was running high last week when fifth-graders at Juliette Low School in Arlington Heights saw their new T-shirts for the first time designed by a local startup company.
Not just any startup, mind you, but one located at Rolling Meadows High School and run by students as part of its new small business management course.
Senior Raymond Liu of Arlington Heights helped to design the T-shirts, which are worn by the fifth-graders throughout the year before they graduate and head off to middle school.
"In the past, the front of the T-shirts had only a graphic of their tiger mascot on it," Liu says, "but I wanted to make it more unique while still incorporating the traditional mascot logo."
He and his team members created a clean design for the front of the T-shirts using their 2018 graduating year, but the back is the highlight. It features all of the fifth-graders' signatures contained inside a tiger's paw print.
The fifth-graders loved their new shirts. In fact, they cheered and even gave their designers hugs for their efforts. Suffice it to say, these young entrepreneurs might not get that kind of reaction from every client, but the youngsters' enthusiasm fueled their confidence.
For Liu, who spent last summer interning at Harper College in its graphic design department, this hands-on, real world experience -- with a paying client -- was a bonus as he prepares for this future.
"One skill I've learned from this class is management," he says. "When a client gives us a deadline, we have to meet that standard."
Teachers Kent Dyer and Amy Vannatta says the class teaches students all aspects of running a small business, including how to borrow money, budgeting and credit, management accounting and marketing.
"We were already offering internship type experiences within our curriculum, but it was limited," Vannatta says. "With the addition of this course, students are able to dive deeper into the experience and gain a better understanding of a real-world work scenario."
The class operates around the graphic design business, with students coming in with a mix of experience in both fields. Already, one team has created T-shirts for the Shannon McNamara Memorial 5K Run, while another soon will be working with the Rolling Meadows Fire Department.
With the Juliette Low project, Liu and his teammates worked with members of the school's Parent Teacher Organization, as well as administrators, to gain approval for the design, budget and production schedule.
Juliette Low Principal Susan Ejma was pleased, not just with the T-shirts, but with the process of her students partnering with local high school students.
"It's great to see our high school so innovative in their methods of teaching and learning around real-world experiences," Ejma said.
"I think projects like this continue to remind me that the work we are doing at the elementary level aligns well with the high school in terms of teaching collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and effective communication."
She adds that partnerships like this one continue to keep students excited about learning throughout their educational career.