High school seniors enrolled in Venango County's eAcademy program are learning skills they would need to run a business, and they are also hearing from current business owners.
Noah Rodgers said that through the eAcademy, "You get more applicable information, what you need to know to go into that world (of business)."
Rodgers and Justice Baker, both seniors at Rocky Grove High School who are enrolled in the eAcademy, say they are planning to major in business in college.
"It makes it (owning a business) seem more doable," Logan Dykins, also a senior at Rocky Grove, said of the program.
Alexis Clark, another Rocky Grove senior, said she enrolled in the program for the experience in case she ever chooses to own a business.
"We do so much that gets them prepared for life outside the classroom," Taylor Mosher said of the eAcademy.
Mosher, who is a teacher with the eAcademy, is the entrepreneurship program manager with the Venango County Economic Development Authority.
The eAcademy is open to high school seniors in Oil City, Franklin, Valley Grove, Cranberry, Forest, Titusville and Penncrest school districts, Mosher said.
During the year, students learn about the different businesses in the area and how businesses function. The students also develop their own fully written business plan, a five-minute pitch about their company and a prototype.
Mosher added that students also learn about writing resumes and cover letters and hone their public speaking skills with frequent class presentations on topics related to the businesses they are learning about and other topics.
Mosher said that before the coronavirus pandemic, the students in the eAcademy would take one field trip day a month to tour local businesses and industries in the area.
Since the pandemic, it hasn't been feasible to go on field trips in person, Mosher said, but several local business owners have talked to the class, which is operating using a hybrid model.
In the spring, Mosher said she hopes to resume some outdoor field trips to businesses.
The eAcademy, which is housed at Clarion University's Venango Campus, is a dual enrollment program for high school seniors that runs Mondays through Thursdays.
Mosher said the students meet in person on Tuesdays, meet via Zoom on Thursdays and have assignments to work on Mondays and Wednesdays.
The program has six students this year - five from Rocky Grove and one from Titusville. There were three students in the program last year.
Students enrolled in the eAcademy are eligible to take a college course through Clarion University, Mosher said.
She explained the eAcademy has reached a deal with Clarion that eAcademy students who are enrolled in a college course at Clarion will also get college credit for the eAcademy.
Mosher said that due to how far some of the students would have to travel from outlying school districts, such as Penncrest and Forest, there was interest in having a virtual option for students to participate in the eAcademy.
Mosher is planning a virtual option in the coming school year for students to participate in the class from their school and come in person for field trips.