Rodger Ebert helped start Lockport Township High School’s entrepreneurship class in 1996 when he was just a student teacher.
And various teachers taught the class over the years, which had a technology focus, said Ebert, who has a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and a master’s degree in instructional technology.
Ebert recently expanded the entrepreneurship class to integrate the business aspect, too. This year, he received the school’s Maroon Apple award for going “above and beyond” to help the students, according to the award description.
Ebert was a little surprised he received the award.
“I was just doing my job,” Ebert said.
For years, the entrepreneurship class focused on using technology to create products for school and staff, Ebert said. For instance, students produced banners using the vinyl cutter. They engraved the nameplates for teachers’ classrooms. They even made school shirts.
“It was the kind of stuff kids weren’t that excited to make,” Ebert said.
But shortly before pandemic, Ebert partnered with a business teacher, changed the purpose of the yearlong class and then added a slogan: “For the students, by the students,” he said.
So Ebert helped open the Porter Pride Store in the back of the LTHS bookstore. The Porter Pride Store will soon have its own space by the school’s display case, Ebert said.
Students are now learning the seven P’s of marketing, Ebert said, which are product, price, promotion, place, packaging, positioning and people. Students conduct market research among their peers to gauge the type of products that might sell. The students decide the type of products they will produce, Ebert said. They determine the price to sell the products, he said.
“They’re building with the designs they made,” Ebert said. “I think it’s more motivating for kids to want to grow with the process.”
Products the students have created and sold during the 2021-22 school year include personalized rally towels, a variety of Porter apparel and school club merchandise, he said. Students even produced the T-shirts LTHS used for its annual veterans night in February, Ebert said.
“We’re just trying to get the kids to see what sells regularly,” Ebert said.
The store is fielding so many orders that five students – some currently taking the class, some not – are now paid workers in the store, Ebert said.
“Over spring break we did all of the class of 2022 senior yard signs,” Ebert said. “We made 940 of those.”
Ebert, who handles the technological aspects of the entrepreneurship class, also expanded the equipment. This includes a large format printer, laser engraver, rotary engraver, large format laminator, multiple vinyl cutter, multiple heat presses, as well as a dye-sublimination machine for doing heat transfers on vinyl, Ebert said.
The entrepreneurship program will expand again for the 2022-23 school year with a new, one-semester class: product merchandising, Ebert said.
Visit the Porter Pride Store at lths-porter-pride-store.myshopify.com.