SME Program Gives Students Real-World Work Experience
Festus High School students are gaining some real-world work experience and earning high school credit through a program that is gaining rave reviews among students. The class is called the Supervised Marketing Experience or SME. It’s a program approved by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) that spells out clear objectives for the class. It provides on-the-job work experience while attending school. Students get the opportunity to leave school as early as one o’clock on a school day in exchange for working at least ten or 20 hours per week. According to the DESE “Students can make connections with real world expectations in terms of accuracy of work, production, staying on task, and responsibility for work… The SME program facilitates the transition from the classroom to the workplace.” Seniors Madison Austin and Sophia Hensley are two of about 30 Festus High School students in the SME program this school year. Austin works different positions at the Festus Schnucks and Hensley is a teller at Bloomsdale Bank in Crystal City.
The SME program has two different levels. There’s the 20-hour program and a 10-hour program. Students working at least 20-hours per week are allowed to leave school at 12:55 every day. Students in the ten-hour program work between ten and 20 hours per week and are allowed to leave school at 1:45. Students are supervised by the program’s teacher, Mr. Rob Propst. “They are required to work those hours and provide pay stubs to verify they have completed their requirements,” he says. “Along with pay stubs, students are asked to complete assignments related to different aspects of the business world. The assignments are geared toward bringing up topics that they may not really think about when it comes to working in a job or career like, safety instructions, internal communication methods, the role of human resources, or the role of the government in their particular job, just to name a few.” Austin says those assignments help them with real world experiences, “I feel like that teaches us all responsibility and accountability.”
Propst says the program has a lot to offer students, both tangible and intangible, “Students gain real world experience, earn money for themselves and their families and get out of school a little earlier than everyone else. They also can earn up to 2 elective credits that could really help their GPA.” Austin and Hensley say the program also helps them manage their time more efficiently. “Going into senior year I only needed my English credit and so I just think the SME program is valuable because I am able to not take up all my time getting credits that are not beneficial to me,” said Austin. “I can use that time more wisely, in my eyes, which is going to work and making more money which is something I am passionate about.” Hensley, who works at Bloomsdale Bank, says without the program, she would not be working where she does now, “I now work at a job that closes at five so if I wasn’t in the SME program I wouldn’t get any hours at all”
Through both the SME program and other classes and programs at Festus High School, students are able to get a look at different careers and learn more about what interests them. Hensley says her experience in the SME program changed her mind about what she wants to do in the future, “I always wanted to be a teacher until I got into Mr. Propst’s classes, until I took accounting here at school.” Hensley continued, “If I would have never done marketing I would have never thought about becoming an accountant. So it really helped set me up and we have people who actually work in our bank who are accountants, so they teach me a lot about numbers and all of that stuff.” Austin says the program helped give her ideas about what to pursue in the future, “Something that I really want to look into whenever I go to college is becoming a financial manager. Mr. Propst has really let us dig deeper into our jobs with the assignments. Getting a broader perspective. With senior year I’m trying to figure out what I want to do and math is something I’m interested in and bookkeeping was one of those things that was a light bulb and I thought that might be a good experience.”
Both Austin and Hensley say they wholeheartedly recommend this program to students and the numbers show the class is growing in popularity. “I feel like it's really beneficial for the people who have that strong work ethic and want to work and want to make money and support themselves," said Austin. “Having the extra time to work helps me to save money. So I am really grateful for this experience.” Hensley says the assignments digging deeper into her job make it worthwhile, “I think it’s really good. That way it isn’t just a program just to leave school early, it's more about figuring out stuff about other people’s main career and how you can get forward with that.” Propst says the success he has seen has been fantastic, “The popularity continues to grow with each semester and hopefully we can somehow expand what we offer for our students.