At Enterprise Co-op you can make pizza, earn money and get high school credit--but you have to drop out first.
The 32 Enterprise high school students, labeled "potential dropouts" by counselors, come to the co-op, located on Broadway opposite the Ringe and Latin School, with histories of discipline problems and truancy and, in some cases, police records.
"These are kids, who, regardless of their ability, have schoolophobia. They just can't function in school," Susan A. Lane, one of the four teacher-directors, says.
The alternative high school combines classwork with running a full-time business. When the students enter the program they become shareholders in a company that last year grossed $41,000.
Each hour earns them a portion of the profits, and last year students shared $9600. Participants usually work a minimum of two and a half hours a day and attend classes for the rest.
Those classes complement the education students get behind the counter. Co-op teachers show students how to draw up a balance sheet in math class, how to fill orders and solicit business in English class, and how to make decisions in social studies class.
When trouble does arise, it is handled collectively, as with any other business decision. Students vote on disciplinary action in the case of theft, and "there is peer pressure to behave," Lane says.
The program receives funds from the city and from the federal government under Title IVC of the Elementary School Education Act, which grants money to innovative educational programs.
And it seems to work. "Many kids get turned on to business and go back to high school," Kathleen Carey, teacher-in-charge and a founder of the program, says. "Others go on to get a job. Yes, some do go on to jail but all things considered this place runs pretty smoothly. We are pleased with our success."