By Michaela Kron

Beginning in October, ninth- and 10th-graders at North Springs Charter High School will take part in a pilot program designed to teach elementary, middle and high school students skills related to business and financial literacy.

The initiative is the result of a new partnership among the Education Committee of the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, the reinvigorated Community Education Force (CEF) — a nonprofit organization that focuses on educational needs in Sandy Springs — and Junior Achievement of Georgia, which brings businesses and community volunteers into schools to teach students about business and finance and prepare them for the global work force.

Leadership Sandy Springs Executive Director Carolyn Axt, who serves on both the Chamber board of directors and the CEF board, said the program will supplement the basic education students already receive.

“The education of all of our students in Sandy Springs cannot be done within just the regular school curriculum,” Axt said. “There are a variety of students that can benefit from additional programs.”

Through the initiative, ninth-graders will learn from the Junior Achievement financial literacy curriculum about personal investments, credit, identity theft and other elements of personal finance. Students also will learn skills such as budgeting and financial goal-setting and decision-making.

“I honestly don’t feel that a lot of folks today understand that, which is why we have the situation that we have today,” CEF Executive Director Irene Schweiger said about the recession. Schweiger in the spring took on the leadership of the CEF, which had become less active in recent years.

Although the curriculum for 10th-graders is still being planned, students will learn business and career skills that align with Project Me, a program sponsored by the North Springs Parent Teacher Student Association through which students build a portfolio with a résumé and work samples over the course of their time in high school.

The program will recruit and train volunteers from businesses, including some Chamber members, and others who have knowledge of business and entrepreneurship to teach students the curriculum.

Steve Dolinger, who serves as the Chamber’s Education and Workforce Development chair and is president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, said this initiative will strengthen the connection between the business community and schools and should be upheld.

“Part of our work is to get the business community to support education and do it in both a strategic way to see results but also as something that can be sustained,” Dolinger said. “It’s going to make a difference in student achievement.”

North Springs Principal Lisa Stueve said she embraced the program because of the opportunities it will offer by exposing students to real-world knowledge and experience.

“From my perspective, more than the specific skills, I want the students to get that dialogue with a person who’s beyond the high school classroom,” Stueve said.

She also supports the program because it “marries so well” with the school’s charter objectives, which include the incorporation of real-world learning into the classroom through project- and problem-based instruction.

The program will be offered to students at least once a week during the school’s advisory period, which is designed to provide opportunities for additional learning.

Although the program will first be implemented at North Springs, whose charter allows students from throughout the area to enroll, the goal of the partnership is to eventually offer it at other public and possibly private schools in the community.

Schweiger and the other leaders of the initiative have high hopes for the program and believe it will be a valuable tool for students.

“It’s a worthwhile program,” she said. “We’re benefiting students by bringing these partnerships together.”