While most of their fellow classmates were busy enjoying their spring break vacation, some students at Santa Monica High School were spending the time by taking an active role in the community.

Santa Monica High School (Samohi) students involved in the Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) team used their time away from classes to work on projects that allowed them to give back to their local community.

For some students, it was an opportunity to work with middle school students and teach them entrepreneurial skills through an after-school business class at Virginia Avenue Park in Santa Monica.

For others, it was a chance to get their hands dirty, literally, by working on a restoration project at the Ballona Wetlands, near Marina del Rey.

The two projects are among seven that students from Samohi are currently working on to ìinstill ethical entrepreneurial learning with civic and community consciousness,î according to teachers with SAGE.

SAGE is a high school competitive organization that focuses on the ìethical teaching of entrepreneurship,î said Samohi teacher Teri Jones, who is advisor to the group.

Whichever of the projects the students chose to take part in, they seemed to thrive on helping out in the community.

ìIt was tough in the beginning but it was really rewarding for us,î said Alexis Kumasaka, a junior at Samohi who was involved in the business class at Virginia Avenue Park.

The first phase of the after-school business class project began March 13th at Virginia Avenue Park and ran every Tuesday and Thursday until April 5th.

Through the project, the students taught finance, marketing and leadership skills to middle school youths attending the after-school program at the park.

ìThe project is to teach them financial responsibility and to enthuse them about learning more about math and academic subjects,î Jones said.

The teaching project is designed to help middle school students develop a sustainable program to earn money for their after-school program and learn the responsibilities of owning a business.

The middle school students who attend the class have expressed a special interest in business and there are ten youths enrolled for every three student- teachers, according to SAGE.

The younger students were very enthusiastic about learning business tips from the student teachers, Kumasaka said.

ìThe (middle school) students really wanted to be there,î she said. ìWe taught them that they can run a business by themselves without having adults around.î

While students in the SAGE program helped show the youths how to have a business sense, they also tried to be ìrole modelsî by teaching the younger pupils how to be responsible, Kumasaka said.

Through the six-week project, the middle-schoolers learned to run a business and maintain successful profits on their own, according to SAGE. The first phase has ended, but the students will act as long-term mentors for the middle school youths by periodically checking on the progress of their project.

In another of the SAGE community projects that members were busy with during spring break, the students went to the Ballona Wetlands near Marina del Rey to help with restoration efforts in the only accessible portion of the preserve.

During the three-month project, which started the first week of April, 16 Samohi students are helping remove invasive plants and trash, prepare the ground, plant seeds for native plants and set up an irrigation system.

Friends of Ballona Wetlands director Kelly Rose is working with the students during the project to train them to tell the difference between native and non-native plant species in the wetlands.

Student participants also contacted Frank McGinity, owner of the Laguna del Rey Apartments, who allowed the students limited access to his irrigation system to help maintain the native plants.

ìItís amazing to see young people have an interest in restoring this area and physically working the land,î said Samohi teacher Anita Kemp, who was involved in the environmental project.

With the help of environmentalists like Rose, the students are learning about plants in the area, indigenous people who used to live in the area and the importance of protecting the wetlands, Kemp said.

By working together in the restoration, the students are not only able to learn more about the environment but also skills such as teamwork, negotiation and how to make business contacts, Kemp said.

Samohi senior Juan Bruera, the student who suggested the groupís involvement at Ballona, said he was glad to help out at the wetlands, where he used to spend time looking for artifacts as a child with his grandfather.

ìI wanted to give back to the area that gave me so much when I was younger,î Bruera said.

After removing the non-native plants and trash and preparing the ground, the students will plant native vegetation through the end of the month and construct an irrigation system to keep the plants watered, Bruera said.

They will maintain the project over the next three months.

Bruera credited both Rose, who taught the students about the wetlands and species, and McGinity, who provided an irrigation system, as key contributors to the student project.

Bruera, who is also involved in a civic engagement project with SAGE, said he and his teammates were more than happy to spend a spring break ìout in the sunî serving the local community.

ìAnytime you can give back to the surrounding community itís a huge payoff,î Bruera said.

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