Sidney Fox, coach for the Little Braves basketball team, asked local high schoolers to design and print team shirts with a logo created by his father, but he wasn’t sure what to expect.
"They were able to bring it to life,” Fox told KTVQ. “I was kind of expecting something like a beginner. But when I first seen this, I was amazed. It looked professionally done, like I ordered it from an online company. I was really surprised.”
In reality, Fox did order the shirts from a professional company: Braves Ink.
The business is almost entirely run by students at St. Labre High School, a Roman Catholic school that serves students from Montana’s Crow and Northern Cheyenne tribes. Instructor Robyn Lei started the program to help students take ownership of their work in a real-world environment, a situation that’s offers practical lessons about business, character, responsibility and community pride.
The student business started small, but initial sales, training from a local printing company, and a grant from Congressman Greg Gianforte helped Braves Ink to upgrade equipment and expand. St. Labre teens design and print shirts for the school’s athletic teams, memorials for lost loved ones, and others, sometimes on short deadlines.
Students learn best from hands on experience. Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture found that when the “moral and missional ethos of a school was reinforced through a range of practices, or routinized actions—some formal, some informal—all oriented toward giving tangible expression of the school’s values and believes,” the moral endowments of the school are strengthened.
Senior Bree Deputee handles the finances, while senior Jayson Fisher focuses on technology and others work the presses. Students sometimes put in long hours, and are rewarded with pizza or other treats when they hit big deadlines. At the end of the year, Braves Ink profits are paid out to students in the form of college scholarships, KTVQ reports.
“We work hands-on with stuff instead of sitting at a desk,” Fisher said. “We learn things that are useful for business by actually doing it, learning through trial and error.”
“Some days we have a deadline, like a strict deadline and I have to help other people,” he said. “It’s hard work, but I like doing that.”
Lei told KTVQ he’s also learned a lot from students who “work so hard and really put their hearts into it,” adding that they’re eager to build on their progress.
“It’s something I would wanna do when I get older, run my own business,” student Camron Spotted Elk told the news site. “I can design these T-shirts and sell them at powwows.”
Teachers and principals working to strengthen moral and citizenship formation in their students can find information and strategies at the UK’s The Jubilee Centre. In The Jubilee Centre’s own words, the following illustrates how the centre views it work. “The Jubilee Centre is a pioneering interdisciplinary research centre on character, virtues and values in the interest of human flourishing. The Centre is a leading informant on policy and practice through its extensive range of projects contributes to a renewal of character virtues in both individuals and society.”