Students make sales at Wind River

Students make sales at Wind River

Laura Casey

A group of BUILD students makes its pitch at Wind River. Contributed photo.

It’s not often that taking a high school college prep class means making money. But that’s exactly what a cadre of tenth grade students from East Oakland did in March at Wind River.

Five teams of Oakland students, participants in the BUILD college prep program, brought marketing materials, product samples and good old salesmanship to Wind River to sell stress balls, office seat cushions, drink tumblers and more to employees.They left campus with a handful of sales each and pride in their business models, BUILD’s East Oakland site director Alex Teitel said.

“They were interactive with staff at Wind River and making money,” she said. “They reported that it was a great experience and they enjoyed interacting with the staff at Wind River. It felt real-world.”

BUILD is a nonprofit organization that started in East Palo Alto and uses entrepreneurship to motivate disengaged, low-income students to excel academically, graduate from high school and attend and succeed in college. They host programs in several sites including in North and East Oakland.

The students attend Castlemont High School, Skyline High School, Lionel Wilson High School and Coliseum College Prep Academy. They are put into a BUILD elective in their freshman year and about 75 percent of the students that start in the BUILD elective end up working with the program after school through the rest of their high school careers. At the start of the program students learn how to create their own businesses and then move on to developing products and learning how to market and sell those products like they did at Wind River.

“BUILD is one of the best things that could have happened to me. I feel like it’s helping me get ready for college,” tenth grade student Barry Brand said.

The main focus of BUILD is getting these kids to eventually attend college. The program for high school seniors is designed 100 percent around the college application process, Teitel said. BUILD also takes students to different college campuses for tours and inspiration. At the end of March, a handful of students went with BUILD mentors on a four-day trip to Sonoma State University; California State University; Stanislaus; University of California, Davis; and the University of Nevada, Reno.

“A lot of the students will be the first generation to go to college and our program is designed where we’re using entrepreneurship as a vehicle to ensure that they are college-ready,” Teitel said. “Compared to students in similar environments, they are really doing well in terms of preparing for college.”