NEOSHO, Mo. — A group of high school students gathered Tuesday at Crowder College to hear local business leaders and entrepreneurs tell the history of business in the Neosho area.
The panel was the first in a series of seven planned seminars for Neosho High School students who are members of NEWcaps. NEWcaps is the high school’s branch of CAPS Network, a national organization that connects high school students to businesses, industries and higher education.
This is Neosho’s first year with the program, which focuses on the business and health care fields. Director Kelly Lay worked over the summer to recruit students. At the beginning of the school year, Lay said the class focused mostly on getting to know each other, as she was uncertain whether the school would continue meeting in person due to the pandemic.
When she was sure they could continue, Lay and teacher Chris Fenske took the students on a tour to see companies with which the program could partner. Lay said the students were amazed at what Neosho had to offer, prompting the decision to start the panel series.
Each of Tuesday’s five speakers had a portion of Neosho’s history to tell, starting before the existence of the United States.
“Knowing a little bit more about where you live and where you’re from, I think it gives us a little bit more of a pride of place,” said speaker Wes Franklin, who gave a general overview of Neosho’s history.
Other speakers were Rudy Farber, chairman of Community Bank & Trust; Justin Branham, president of Branco Enterprises Inc.; Jenny Spiva, of Griffith Motors; and T.J. Lake, co-owner of Twin Oaks Custom Cabinets. Each told the history of his or her business.
NEWcaps has six more panels planned for the school year, with themes that follow the path of conceptualizing, establishing and sustaining a business. Lay said each panel will emphasize a different aspect of entrepreneurship, but all will circle back to being established in a community.
“We don’t want them to believe they have to leave or move somewhere else in order to find success,” she said.
For the past three weeks, the NEWcaps students also have been going through what Lay calls a boot camp for learning to think like entrepreneurs. Throughout the year, Lay said, the students will have job-shadow opportunities at workplaces in the Neosho area to gain an understanding of day-to-day life in their potential career fields.
Lay said students with interests leaning toward business are currently reaching out to local companies, finding projects that will allow them to work with them, learn teamwork and learn more about their fields.
For students leaning toward the medical field, this means job shadowing three days a week at Freeman Hospital during the fall semester, rotating through hospital jobs. In the spring, the students will explore more specialized fields, such as dentistry or veterinary medicine.
“(The program) has to align with your community because you need support,” Lay said, “but it also needs to align with where your students’ interests lie, and our entire goal is to just ensure that the students have a better level of understanding and confidence when they leave high school for what they want to do for a career.”