Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Sharp kids at Charlotte middle school impress three business types

Last Friday, two Business North Carolina editors and I were fortunate enough to visit E.E. Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte as part of the Students@Work program which took place across the state all last week.  Students@Work is a job-shadowing and job-mentoring initiative originated by the North Carolina Business Committee for Education in 2011. BNC is one of hundreds of companies that belong to the Raleigh-based group.  Working closely with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, more than 128,000 eighth-grade students have been impacted to date.  The goal is to expose middle-school students to career pathway options so they understand the potential for attainable jobs and the relevance of what they are expected to learn in their classrooms every day.

We visited Mr. Vinson Washburn’s 8th grade “Exploring Business Marketing and Entrepreneurship” class to discuss our jobs, business in North Carolina and entrepreneurism’s impact on the state’s economy. I was apprehensive sharing experiences working at a print publication to a bunch of eighth-graders, many addicted to their cellphones or tablets. In fact my first question was, “Do you all know what a magazine is?” Fortunately, we were blown away at the research and grasp of BNC’s mission. The students were polite, well-behaved and, most important, they were curious about everything we discussed.

Sometimes we can be cynical about the next generation. Technology is something that wasn’t at my fingertips as a teenager. I was proud of my knock-off Walkman, but that was about it.  These kids have a lot more than a Walkman and used their tech skills to research our site before our visit.. They were  ready to discuss some serious, thought-provoking issues. It was a great experience and my colleagues, our business and I are better because of  it.

Sidenote: Waddell is one of the star success stories in North Carolina public education. It’s a K-8 magnet school that requires its students to learn one of five languages: Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, German, French or Spanish. The school, housed in a 15-year-old former high school building in an  economically struggling part of Charlotte, has a waiting list of students hoping to enroll. It’s also one of the city’s most diverse schools — Mr. Washburn’s class  included Hispanic, African-American, Caucasian and Asian-American kids. Three visiting Japanese exchange students also attended during our visit.

Ben Kinney
Ben Kinney
Ben Kinney is publisher of Business North Carolina magazine. You can reach him at

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