By Nancy Johnson Horn, Editor
30,751 – That’s how many students in Georgia’s class of 2011 dropped out of school before graduating. And across our nation over 7,000 kids drop out of school each day. Organizations like the new non-profit Community Guilds can help. While their friends lounged around their houses this summer, three selected teenagers worked with community artisans to learn how to farm organic produce, craft ceramics, jar jams, operate a small business and bring their products to market. The non-profit Community Guilds’ pilot apprenticeship program paired college bound urban youth with local artisans and created apprenticeship and entrepreneurial opportunities to design, make and sell products.
When asked to describe Community Guilds in one word, each of the three rising juniors from KIPP Collegiate Academy high school offered a different perspective, Iesha mentioned “professionalism”, Kenya stated “curiosity” and Jeremy said that it would have to be “grit”. Kenya went on to say that “you actually get to work with people and learn how to communicate, stuff you need for the real world”, a sentiment shared by each of the other apprentices.
“Community Guilds provides students opportunities to work with their hands which equips them with 21st century skills such as grit, determination, motivation, perseverance and a sense of accomplishment,” explained Jason Martin, founder of Community Guilds and a 20 year education veteran. “Making a masterpiece by hand will revive their self-confidence in all areas of their lives, including school.”
The pilot program ran for three weeks in July. Apprentices received wages and were expected to work 15-20 hours per week. They began by working together to complete a business plan and launch their own small business, Organic Creations. They even applied for a 0% loan with Kiva, a Community Guild’s partner, to pay for materials and supplies.
“Before I leave here (the program) I now know that I’m a hard working business woman who will do great things in life”, declared Iesha.
Atlanta’s local artisans were enthusiastic to participate in the apprenticeship program. Joe Reynolds of Love is Love Farm taught the apprentices organic farming techniques and business operations, Chef Phillip of Kimball House restaurant taught food safety, canning and how to make marketable products from the organic produce, while Ann Gardner from Barking Frog Studios taught ceramics to showcase their finished products.
“The students with Community Guilds brought great energy, enthusiasm, and courage with them each day that we worked together. It would be great if all students had access to this transformative program.” stated Joe Reynolds.
The apprentices managed all stages of making, marketing and selling their products. They also fully paid off their loan and made $180 in net profits.
Georgia faces one of the greatest high-school drop rates in the country. According to Atlanta Journal Constitution, over 30,000 students dropped out of Georgia’s class of 2011. Martin launched Community Guilds to face this issue head-on. Community Guilds offers after school apprenticeship programs and summer camps to high school students and a makerspace truck, the STE(A)M truck, to middle school students. The STEA()M (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) truck offers middle school students a space and supplies to tinker and try to make new things under the guidance of local professionals.
“Our unique combination of apprenticeship learning with authentic entrepreneurship in a supportive Guild structure not only engages youth, but also ensures students finish what they start and preserve when encountering challenges,” said Martin.
The pilot exit interviews, surveys and observations confirmed that Community Guild’s approach to learning will impact the cognitive skills most needed for long term success in and out of school.
For more information on how you can become involved with Community Guilds or to make a donation, please visit their website at www.community-guilds.com or email Jason@community-guilds.org. Every little bit helps (and is tax deductible!).
Follow them on facebook – https://www.facebook.com/CommunityGuilds
Follow them on Twitter – https://twitter.com/jasonforguilds
Disclosure: This is started by my cousin, Jason Martin and I offered to post (and donate money) on my own. No compensation was received for this post.