Submitted photo

Submitted photo

By Breanne Massey

Pioneer Staff

A community-minded classroom and their teacher are hoping to raise money for a microcredit loan to tackle social issues in the Columbia Valley.

Alyssan Gauthiers Grade 5 students at J.A. Laird Elementary School will be selling their handmade canvas paintings from the Art by Kids program in a silent auction held in the main foyer of the school between April 25th and 28th to create the second interest-free Building Beginning Microcredit Loan to help someone from the community pursue their dream.

My hope is that starting a business shouldnt feel so daunting to some of these kids because it might be something that my students feel like doing in the future, said Ms. Gauthier. Weve had an experience now with lending money to someone overseas and seeing how thats impacted a community, so Im hoping this next loan will be sourced out locally to help the kids understand how their efforts impact people locally.

Previously, her students contributed approximately $1,000 to a Tanzanian school through the Building Beginning Microcredit Loan to help cover the construction costs of getting windows and ceiling materials in Africa for the school.

In addition, Ms. Gauthiers small cohort of students were rewarded for their hard work, dedication and generosity in giving back to others when 15 Grade 5 and 6 students from J.A. Laird Elementary School were selected to attend a day-long WE Day workshop hosted by the international charity Free the Children in Calgary on October 27th after completing a two-year long project that taught them how to manage a microcredit loan. At the workshop, they learned about the financial risks of managing a business.

Now, thanks to the microcredit loan that Ms. Gauthier and her class will be providing to an applicant from the community before the end of this school year through the Art by Kids program, their efforts will be passed on.

Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Clovechok has been mentoring the Grade 5 class in launching the Art by Kids business in Invermere.

I started working with Ms. Gauthiers Grade 5 class in April 2015 to teach the Junior Achievement BCs (JABC) Business Basics program and this past September, Ms. Gauthier and I met to discuss what we could work on for her new class of Grade 5s, she explained. We decided on a Business of Your Own and we had a few ideas on what type of business the students could create, but ultimately the students decided on the art cards. Due to the enthusiasm of the students, the project has grown beyond the JABC curriculum and now they are gearing up for their silent auction, which will provide the money to produce the art cards, which will be available at a variety of retailers throughout the community. The JABC program is such a great way to introduce young people to business and teach them how what they are learning in school applies beyond the classroom in a way that is meaningful to them.

Ms. Clovechok volunteered to deliver JABCs A Business of Our Own program to students to help the class understand a multi-faceted approach to business.

We learned how to run a business, what people do in a business, and we had to think about how many Art Cards we could print, said Erika Whitty, one of the participating students.

Some students were eager to learn the characteristics of a successful entrepreneurs; while others were happy to take on specific tasks to ensure the art exhibition could be accompanied by an ongoing sale to earn a profit.

We learned how to work together in our business teams and how to agree on where to put all of our paintings, said participating student Emmylou Grieve.

Participating student Aidan Guest added: Some of us wrote letters to businesses around town to ask if we could sell our art cards there.

This year, applications will made available to locals from the community for the Building Beginning Microcredit Loan at J.A. Laird Elementary Schools front office starting in the last week of May 2016.

Ms. Gauthier estimates there will be $1,000 available for applicants to the interest free microcredit loan. There will be no restrictions that prevent anyone from applying, she added, but preference will be given to people that arent eligible to apply for loans through a bank such as youth.

In addition, this years class will be selling art cards featuring student artwork that has been professionally printed through Palliser Printing at a wide variety of businesses such as AG Valley Foods, Black Star Studios, The Trading Post, The Invermere Bakery and Invermeres Home Hardware this spring.

We had to work together as a team to create this business and to create the art cards, said participating student Megan McGregor.

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