Workforce & Education

September 13, 2023

Unique Programs Instill Confidence in Youth Participants

When it was announced last year that a program called “Amazing Shake” would replace Lemonade Day as part of the Educational/Workforce strategic priority, talk of flavors began to emerge.

Yet instead of chocolate, vanilla, and butterscotch, the new initiative had more to do with developing confidence, making a good first impression, and establishing a handshake that could get a foot in the door.

“Lemonade Day was great, but we wanted to get back to impacting more kids,” said GSVCC CEO Lance Beck of the decision to move in another direction after five years.

Chamber Board Member Phil Champlin first recommended Amazing Shake, originally developed by the Ron Clark Academy, an Atlanta-based nonprofit known for fostering leadership and academic excellence.

Eric Hoglund, executive director of Elementary Learning and Teaching with the Central Valley School District (CVSD), began conversations with the chamber about Amazing Shake in August 2022. Hoglund told Beth Taylor, then the chamber’s Strategic Initiative manager, that it would be feasible to coordinate the program the following spring.

“I thought it would be a nice end-of-year activity if we could work around the state testing going on at the same time,” Hoglund said. “I figured the teachers could take on the lesson plan.” 

Hoglund recruited Lauren Waterbury, assistant principal at Liberty Lake Elementary, to oversee the details while he handled responsibilities at the building level. A total of 15 schools and around 800 fifth graders across CVSD took part in the Amazing Shake.

Taylor said the curriculum, which totaled around one hour of classroom time, is designed to help students understand the importance of conveying self-confidence and awareness in a job interview or other setting where a handshake and introduction begin the conversation.

“Individuals are coming out of high school not knowing how to do an introduction,” Taylor said. “The business community has said they have employees coming in without these basic skills.” 

The day of the Amazing Shake competition included two judges in each classroom. Over 60 volunteers from fields like business and government pitched in to be part of the event. BECU stepped up as the title sponsor for the inaugural serving of Amazing Shake.

“I loved the fact that it taught kids how to properly introduce themselves and be confident about it,” said Liberty Lake Mayor Cris Kaminskas., who served as one of the judges at Liberty Lake Elementary. “It’s a skill that, if learned correctly, can help you your entire life.” 

West Valley Superintendent Kyle Rydell and several elementary school principals from WVSD also volunteered their time as judges. Beck said there is hope to have each of the Valley school districts take part in the next rendition of Amazing Shake. Superintendents from CVSD, WVSD, Freeman, and the East Valley School District are part of the chamber board.

“This allows us to be a step forward with all four school districts going into next year,” Beck said. “This is going to reach more students and integrate more volunteers into the classroom.” 

Around the same time Amazing Shake was wrapping up its inaugural season, another chamber-based project helped local youth develop entrepreneurial skills with help from two popular farmers’ markets.

Opening day of the Spokane Valley Farmers Market on June 2 featured close to a dozen booths operated by kids from area schools, selling original art that ranged from candles to jewelry to prints and more. One of the most successful factions of the program, known as “Youth Farmers Market,” originated from an art class at West Valley High School that generated around $1,200 in revenue.

“I was very impressed with the quality of the products,” said Taylor, who added that she purchased many items from several booths. “Students realized they could really do this.” 

Along with developing a marketing plan, students put together their own table displays as well as signage to promote their products. 

Katy Lee, manager of the Spokane Valley Farmers Market, said the youth vendors “were a really cool addition to the market.” 

“Being in a real-life, functioning market, these kids were so confident,” Lee said.

Lee added that she would like to continue with some version of the Youth Farmers Market as the season continues through summer and early fall.

“I think it’s important to support youth and help them be part of the small business community,” she said.

The day after the premiere in the Valley, four booths representing the Youth Farmers Markets were part of the Liberty Lake Farmers Market.  As it had with Amazing Shake, BECU signed on as the title sponsor for the premiere of the program. 

“Entrepreneurship and education align with our mission and values,” said BECU Retail Market Development Specialist Erick Peck. “Both of these made sense for us. Plus, we know that when the Valley Chamber coordinates an event, it’s going to be done well.” 

Peck served as judge of the booths at the Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake sites and, like Taylor, emerged with a good impression at each market as well as a number of purchased items from several vendors.

“The professionalism with some of the displays was impressive,” he said. “The sales pitches were great. I was encouraged to see the students who took part developing business savvy.” 

There has been talk of the Youth Farmers Market continuing next year, contributing to the bumper crop in self-confidence first instigated by Amazing Shake.


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