By Michelle Miller
---- — This will mark the fourth year Cooperstown Central School students have been able to run their very own “flea market” style marketplace. Soon other students from area schools might get the same opportunity.
The marketplace is the end product of a six-week after-school entrepreneurship education program called TREP$. It was created by Pamela deWaal and Hayley Romano, two certified teachers who reside in West Milford, N.J.
The program began when their then-10-year-old sons decided to go into business together selling hand stamped wrapping paper at an adult vendor night at the school. The boys sold out of their product and shared their success story with their peers. Based on the merits of the program, the Paradise Knoll Parent Teacher Association earned the New Jersey PTA’s Champion for Children Award for best new program.
Impressed with Cooperstown’s success with the program,Otsego County Chamber Executive Director Barbara Ann Heegan, said there has been discussion of the Chamber possibly purchasing it and offering to all schools in the county.
“We are still in the conversation stage of things, but we certainly want to lend support to the current program at Cooperstown,” she said.
According to Heegan, the chamber will help by assisting with making connections with local business people and speakers.
Heegan said the idea of purchasing the program will be brought to the Chamber’s Education Committee at its meeting on Feb. 12.
On Sunday, Cooperstown students will be setting up shop and selling their products and services that they have been developing. The marketplace will be open from 1 to 3 p.m. at the middle/high school gymnasium. According to workshop facilitator Rebecca Stone, last year was not the most profitable of all the years, but there were more businesses. She said there were 37 businesses represented at the marketplace that brought in a total of $2,409. In 2011 the marketplace profited $3,226, and in its inaugural year it profited $1,754.
This year, according to Stone, there are 32 businesses planned to be set up at the marketplace. Stone said items will range from candles, stress balls, fertilizer, jewelry, trivets, stationery and cards, refrigerator magnetic clips and more. Only cash will be accepted.
Cooperstown’s program is offered by the district’s Parent Teacher Organization. Carina Franck, TREP$ chairwoman, said others have asked her about the program for use at other schools.
“Some have purchased the program, others are asking questions about it and some are in the preliminary stages of getting it implemented,” she said. “It is kind of nice to be looked at as a model school.”
Those involved in the Cooperstown program are also taking the initiative to invite those from other schools to the marketplace to see if the program would be something of interest.
“It is great if other schools do it because students here can then go visit other marketplaces and get ideas and inspiration,” Franck said.
The Cooperstown TREP$ program began as an offering to middle school students only; however, the outreach has expanded to include high schoolers as well. Once students participate in all the workshops they can return each year to sell products at the marketplace.
Franck said she is anticipating having 20 to 25 returning entrepreneurs at this year’s marketplace.
“The biggest challenge is reaching out to the kids and getting them to return, especially getting the high school students to come back. They get very busy,” Franck said.
Each year organizers host a TREP$ kick off assembly to create students interest, but that is aimed at the younger students. This year, according to Fanck, the gathering featured a local businesswoman from Andela Products (products made from recycled glass) of Richfield Springs who spoke in front of fifth- through eighth-grade students.
“She did an amazing presentation,” Frank said. “We hope to be able to do this again in years to come.”
Students are being encouraged to “think green” again this year. Last year, Cooperstown was awarded $700 through The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s New Energy $mart Students Program.
Franck said it was not a new concept for students in the program, but the funding received helped put an emphasis on thinking green and made it more appealing.
“Some funding was left over from last year so we can give a little shove toward having the students think about how to reduce and reuse,” she said.
Workshops generally follow an outline provided by in a TREP$ workbook, according Franck. However, she said organizers do try to improve and strengthen the workshops a little bit each year.
“The things that are taught are used in the everyday world,” Franck said. “Students learn to write promotional material and learn math skills such as making change. We try to make connections with what they are learning in school and will be used in everyday life. These things don’t just happen within the walls at school.”
For more information on the TREP$ program, visit www.trepsed.com.