It’s all there, minus the water cooler. That’s coming. Otherwise, the setting looks like any modern-day office suite, with waiting room, conference room, specialized office space, overhead screens, and a collaborative brainstorming room: It’s Matanzas High School’s Marketing Lab, the newest addition to its marketing and finance program, a hands-on immersive experience for students to get the full workplace experience from conceiving products to pitching their marketability to developing advertising campaigns to selling.
“We have classrooms, lots of classrooms, we needed more project-based spaces,” Jeremy Ossler, the career and technical education coordinator at Matanzas, said.
Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt and Principal Kristin Bozeman cut the ribbon a little after 10 this morning, launching a lab five years in the making.
“So often working with teenagers, you hear, when are we ever going to use this,” Bozeman said, “and I don’t think anyone can stand in a classroom that looks like this and wonder when someone is going to use this in life, and to be able to have a space that students can come in and be inspired and feel that vision of themselves in the future, working in business and working in marketing is incredibly powerful.” This, she added, “is something that Flagler schools does better than anybody, and it’s something that is a true gift for our students and for our community.”
Two students briefly gave a Shark Tank-like pitch of their own for a fictional company they call Sensory Co, whose cane for the blind would “send shock signals to the brain making it able to process light.” Three other students put the new lab and the program in the context of their work with DECA, the career and technical education organization led by students.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the students,” Mittelstadt said. “I was talking to some of the DECA kids and they were able to conceptualize what this room should look like last year. And they brought some plans and designs together and they see it here, live and in person. Now they get to live in the space and learn from it and apply it in the future. It’s exciting.”
Five years ago faculty and staff went to Stetson University to tour the Centurion Sales Program in the College of Business Administration. They saw offices set up for actual sales pitches, using Salesforce. The group decided to replicate the setting at Matanzas High School. The group included Ossler, the late Joe Rizzo, who was leading the Flagler Education Foundation at the time and championed all flagship programs–Theresa Rizzo, who has taken over the foundation’s leadership, was among those marking the ribbon-cutting today–and Lynette Schott, who was executive director of student and community engagement, and has since retired.
“That’s exactly the hands real-world opportunity that we wanted to bring to our students at Matanzas High School,” Ossler said. “On our second visit, we brought along Joey DiPuma,” the district’s coordinator of innovation whose name recurred most often today, and who designed the new space (he lives and breathes design, and has been nationally recognized for his work). “He was able to take what we saw and transform it into innovative space you see behind me today.”
Jeff Reaves was the Matanzas principal at the time and has since taken charge of curriculum at the district. “I guess it took a while for the vision to come to fruition and to get the right people in the right place,” Reaves, who also attended today’s ceremony, said. “We were working together collaboratively with the district office and finance to get the right teacher in place to see something like this come in play. It’s such a need for our community and a great opportunity for our students to experience real-world opportunities for a workforce. I knew we were in a good place and today is the culmination of that to see this actually happening. So I’m very excited for our students.”
The space used to be a dumping ground for storage. It was cleaned up over the summer and turned into te Marketing Lab. “This experience right here is like no other in any high school in this area,” the superintendent told the ceremony’s audience, in the classroom space next to the lab. “This is phenomenal. This is over the top. I can tell you when I was in school, you know the square little classroom, just a little table that we sat behind.”
If you ask DiPuma how it’s all brought together, he takes you on a small exploratory journey, describing the industry software used as part of the design phase, drilling down to the smallest details of materials used, the materials’ colors, their smell, their shape, the environment’s lighting and greenery: it all matters. “It’s really like a symphony, like a lot of different pieces to function. And you have to have good leadership, you have to have a good vibe.”
Bozeman recognized the team effort that led to the lab’s creation, including student enthusiasm: she cited the email she got when she first started as principal, from Natalie Plambeck, now a senior and president of the DECA club, looking to push the program and its lab along. It was illustrative of Bozeman’s experience with those programs of study in general, and with the district’s focus.
“And that is something that is so tremendous and special in Flagler schools and at Matanzas, is the amount of student voice and the amount that students drive it,” Bozeman said. “If you were here Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and you were getting to see the coffee shop that they run–and when I tell you it is 100 percent student-run: when I’m getting a purchase order, it’s got the students’ handwriting on it, of how many orders they need of supplies, of blenders, of all the things that they’ve put together for that. Obviously their teacher oversees it guides and advises them, but it is really and truly the students that give this program life. I’m so appreciative to be in a district and in a school where we are able to make a facility that matches that drive and that passion.”
It all fits in with what the public since the last decade came to know as flagship programs. The term has given way to Career and Technical Education programs of study, or CTE, programs that provide state certifications and qualify students for Bright Future, the state scholarship program that can underwrite a student’s tuition in part or in full at state schools. Matanzas has five Programs of Study: culinary arts, law and justice, construction, digital media, and marketing and finance. Originally the school had a finance program and a sports marketing program. The school two years ago merged them into a a marketing finance-entrepreneurship program, with about 90 to 100 students enrolled.
Each of the programs of study has made news in turn, as when VyStar Credit Union opened a student-led branch at the school in 2014. The branch is still there, operated by students during the lunch hour, and fits in with the marketing and finance program. (See: “In a First for Flagler Schools, Student-Staffed VyStar Bank Branch Opens at Matanzas, Heralding Era of Business Partnerships.”)
Four years later the school launched its law and justice program, with a lab of its own: a courtroom. (See: “Matanzas High Launches Law and Justice Flagship, Giving Students Bridge to Cop and Legal Careers.”) The culinary program has made its own headlines, opening a cafe last year. And the marketing and finance students market their own coffee, some of which was available at today’s ceremony. (The cake, however, may have been a Publix import).
And now the marketing and finance program: It’s a three-year career program, with a fourth-year optional internship that ties into the school’s partnership with VyStar Credit Union.
The few speeches and ribbon-cutting over, the guests milled about in the new lab, then had to return to their actual offices. All fine school board members had been invited. None showed.
Matanzas High School Marketing Notes:
Matanzas High’s Pirate Players Present ‘Grease,’ the musical, at Pirates Theatre on the school’s campus Thursday, Friday, Saturday (April 13, 14, 15) at 7 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Tickets are $10 online or at the door. Book here.
Flagler Schools Fan says
Congratulations to the MHS and District teams that made this happen. Love the innovation and all the student-led programs. Can’t wait to hear more once the Marketing Lab is up ‘n running. Go Pirates!
Deborah Coffey says
This is awesome! But, “All five school board members had been invited. None showed.” However, Cathy Mittelstadt SHOWED!
Marketing 101 says
Do the exact Opposite of whatever Bud Light does, never be woke and cost your future employer $5 Billion. Oh, and back in the 1980s they changed coke and called it new coke. Don’t do that either.
JOE D says
What a feather in Flagler County’s cap to have this new exciting REAL WORLD experiential lab at Matanzas High School, in addition to their other exciting technology based programs!
5 years in the making?!? Sorry the our soon to be OUSTED County School Superintendent won’t be around to see the combined work of all the educators and students who made this dream a reality…at least she was STILL ALLOWED to attend the ribbon cutting….noticeably NOT attended by ANY of the current Flagler County School Board Members!
Still believe EDUCATION and Flagler County’s CHILDREN are the TRUE priority of many of our SCHOOL BOARD members, and not SELF INTEREST??? Wake up Flagler County…our children, and our COMPETENT EDUCATORS are slipping or being driven away….
I wonder why the school board members were not present?
This is lame. Not only are these jobs not exciting or rewarding, they are not future proof. Teach the kids real skills- math and science, or carpentry and welding. Something we actually need in the community.
Who thought of this? Were they being sarcastic? “I know, let’s take a storage closet and turn it into a sales force incubator!”
I feel sorry for the children. They shouldn’t have to be insulted with second rate aspirations.
The dude says
Especially considering what my job in marketing pays me and offers in a work/life balance.
I could easily be a welder or fabricator to support my family, did it for years in my earlier life. But it didn’t pay or offer near what my job in marketing pays.
I guess when your thinking is stuck in the 80’s, you should expect 80’s results.
Please remember not every student is going to be a brain surgeon or even choose to follow a path of academia. This can also be viewed as a starting place, an experience that some may never have or a way to find strengths that may not have the opportunity to blossom.
MHS parent says
MHS also offers a Carpentry program as well as dual enrollment programs where the students can graduate with the certification needed, including welding. I think that it’s great that the school is offering so many options for our children whether it’s white collar or blue collar. I wish I had half the options growing up that my children have today.