Penn Hills charter school students welcome public into their MicroSociety
Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship students live in their own little world – literally.
Children and staff recently welcomed parents and the public into their MicroSociety, a unique educational model in which the student body is the economy.
They run businesses, government and banks and are held accountable for the maintenance and survival of the mini-society that is their school.
About 300 kindergarten through sixth-graders participate in the society. Third-grader Mahayla Houston, 8, was elected this year’s president.
“It makes me feel good and have to be way more responsible,” Mahayla said. “I have to make announcements. I have to make speeches for town hall. We’re usually working on (presentations) and slides.”
Students spend about 40 minutes, three times a week working for wages in the form of micros—the society’s currency that allows them to purchase items at stores.
They also learn the basics of resume writing and research entrepreneurs with businesses similar to their own.
The public event is called “MicroNight,” during which attendees exchange cash for the school’s money and help support the student-run shops. Proceeds go toward materials and other related expenses for the program.
Mahayla’s father, Dave Houston, is president of the charter school’s parent/teacher association. He said he is very proud of the young president and may have given her a few tips.
“She does a great job and always exceeds expectations,” Houston said. “I told her first and foremost, be yourself. Always tell the truth. You never get in trouble for telling the truth. And have fun.”
The MicroSociety educational program was developed and launched in the 1990s by a Brooklyn teacher who wanted to incorporate real-life into learning, according to the MicroSociety.org website.
It’s been used at the Penn Hills school the past eight years. Jessica Zuk was named MicroSociety coordinator of the year for 2018.
“Charter schools all have an innovation,” Zuk said “That’s the reason we’re here. We do something different than other schools. We’re not saying we’re better, but we definitely do something different. Our innovation is entrepreneurial development. We help to make sure all of our students are growing that entrepreneurial mindset to prepare them for their future.”
Third-grader Alyssa Bridges, 9, ran the Star Jokes store where people bought different types of jokes. One of the more popular ones read, “Why did the cookie go to the doctor? Because it was feeling crumby.”
Julius Wilkerson observed his daughter, Chelsea, operate the Jewelry Boutique.
“It’s priceless,” he said. “To have that business mindset at such a young age will carry her the rest of her life. I’m very impressed (with the students). A lot of times you focus on your own child, and to see other children equally as bright is great.”
Chelsea, 11, showed the skills and poise of a veteran business owner.
“I do make sure that all of my employees are very happy,” she said. “That is my No. 1 concern. If none of my employees are happy, then it’s not going to be good. When they’re happy, then I’m happy. I also make sure that my customers are happy. We always put the customers first. I also learned a great deal of patience.”
Chelsea said the teachers are the best part of her school. She was the society’s president last year.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .