Public and private entities have banded together to give local students a taste of the business world in the form of a $50,000 business and multimedia lab at Del Norte High School.

Nearly 90 students so far have signed up for two Microsoft Office classes and two multimedia classes, according to a press release from Building Healthy Communities. Del Norte High School Principal Coleen Parker said she hopes to expand the class to 120 students.

"We are finally bringing in the software side and bringing back the business program," Parker told Building Healthy Communities.

The computer lab and classes are the result of a partnership between Del Norte County Unified School District, The Patricia D. and William B. Smullin Foundation and the California Endowment through its Building Healthy Communities initiative.

The local business community also helped, said Kevin Hartwick, an accountant with Cholwell, Benz and Hartwick and founder of the Wild Rivers Community Foundation. Hartwick, Baird Rumiano of the Rumiano Cheese Company and Dan Brattain of Cal-Ore Life Flight spearheaded the business effort.

"The emphasis on this particular project had some to do with discussions that were going on between the school district administration and the business community about what the business community would like to see in employees," Hartwick said. "And one of the things that was talked about quite a bit is the skills that are obviously needed in today's world as relates to the use of computers and state-of-the-art programs."

Parker said she wants to teach students about entrepreneurship and virtual enterprise, an online challenge around picking a product, developing a marketing campaign and heading to Los Angeles to compete against other high schools.

"They're learning about marketing, the different ways to market products, how product is sold in print versus audio and they're working with radio and cameras to put spots together," she told the Building Healthy Communities initiative. "I've been in other communities and they aren't as open as Del Norte has been to get more career tech out there. The great thing about a business pathway is that it is so broad, everything from a high school diploma to a four-year degree. You can do so much."

Business leaders are looking for employees who are versed in programs like Excel, Word and Powerpoint, Hartwick said. The high school's new multimedia classes can also help students acquire skills they can use while they're still in schools, he said.

"Even while they're in school they can actually assist local businesses with marketing campaigns," Hartwick said. "The capabilities of using Excel, Word and Powerpoint are all standards that people are now expecting. The students as they gain more of these skills can play more of a role, they may even currently be able to assist businesses and (with) website design in the future."

According to Hartwick, the business community's involvement also included hiring first-year teacher Derek Arnell.

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