Rapoport Academy high school students do not have to wait to start sharpening their entrepreneurial skills and building business connections, with the charter school’s work-based education program that will be featured next month at a state charter school summit.

Juniors Kendylle Hubby and Jaylon Perry are the first students to participate in Rapoport’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School program. They both take a work-based learning class during which they create designs and carve them into wood, using graphic design software and wood-engraving equipment.

Videographers filmed various classes May 13 that will be featured in a video highlighting Rapoport’s program at the 2019 Charter School Summit in Austin next month, district spokeswoman Bridget Heins said.

“PTECH is really just putting a label on what Rapoport does,” Superintendent Alexis Neumann said. “This is an opportunity for us to really root into who we are, who we were founded to be, which is an entrepreneurship and STEM academy. We can do that because we are flexible. We are small. It is built into the DNA of the district.”

Founded in 1998 in East Waco with 16 students, Rapoport now boasts an enrollment of 818, according to the Texas Education Agency.

STEM Coordinator Clay Springer developed the Pathways model that will fully launch in the fall. He teaches the class Kendylle and Jaylon take twice a week between their classes at Texas State Technical College. Next year, Rapoport plans to employ three to four part-time teachers who spend half the day in the classroom and the other half running their businesses out of the academy, while providing internships to students.

“They get to teach exactly what they’re passionate about,” Springer said. “We are heading in a direction to match all of our students in work-based learning. You can turn it into a career. That’s the kind of confidence building we want to see.”

Some of the classes available next year include graphic design, commercial media, photography and studio production. All the classes fit into one of four majors the high school offers: modern design, engineering and mechatronics, business and hospitality, and health and wellness. The teachers can continue to work in their field and keep their businesses thriving, while providing students with experience.

“Our hope is that every single kid has an opportunity to work side-by-side with one of our local entrepreneurs,” Neumann said. “We want every kid to find that place that gets them passionate about education. We’re focused on the processes of learning, not necessarily the product of learning. We want our kids to be confident problem-solvers. We want them to be innovative.”

So far, Kendylle has created thumbprint engravings, using a delicate drill head called an end mill to trace the curves of a person’s thumbprint. Jaylon has made a topographical version of Lake Michigan, and they also have made Rapoport stickers for incoming students and college logo stickers for graduating students.

“I didn’t really discover that I had the talent to do a lot of this stuff until I started with Mr. Springer,” Kendylle said. “He encouraged me to keep doing it.”

Jaylon said he plans to use the communication and entrepreneurship skills he has learned when he starts working in cyber security, which is what he plans to study in college.

“I’m very grateful for this program,” he said. “This just teaches me business communication, as well as entrepreneurship and confidence in what I make. Taking that into the real world is going to be very helpful.”

Brooke Crum joined the Tribune-Herald as the education reporter in January 2019. She has worked for the Springfield News-Leader in Missouri, Abilene Reporter-News, Beaumont Enterprise and the Port Arthur News. Crum graduated from TCU in Fort Worth.

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