The business of learning

The business of learning

Center for Advanced Professional Studies gives high school students business-world experience

By Brett Auten

Albert Einstein said, “The only source of knowledge is experience,” and area students are getting an upfront look at the real-world workforce thanks to a program that launched this semester. 

Center for Advanced Professional Studies (or better known as CAPS) is a high-school program that is both innovative and nationally recognized. St. Charles CAPS is a partnership between St. Charles City School District and Orchard Farm School District. The nine-member student group meets Monday thru Friday from 7:45-10:15 a.m. for the entire school year at their business partner’s host site, OPO Startups located on Main Street in St. Charles. 

Through the approachable and open-thinking culture at OPO Startups, the students – while also receiving high school and college credit – have fast-forwarded into the professional world. 

Cheryl Graber is the CAPS instructor and the Workforce Development Coordinator for the St. Charles City School District. 

Graber said CAPS is an example of how business, community and public education can partner to produce personalized learning experiences that educate the workforce of tomorrow, especially in high skill, high demand jobs.

“CAPS is providing our students a profession-based learning experience in high demand, high skill careers in St. Charles County,” Graber said. “Not only that, but the program builds a future workforce for CAPS industry partners. It encourages college and career readiness through real-world, hands-on experiences. Developing professional skills which employers deem highly crucial to individual success.”

The students launched and opened a cafe, OPO Cafe, which is open during select, high-traffic hours on Main Street.

Brandon Siebert, 18, is a senior at Orchard Farm High School and he has embraced the alternative learning environments CAPS has provided.

“I like the freedom we have. We come here and work on our projects, and you are free to figure it out your own and approach things your way. You don’t have a curriculum. School seems almost dumbed down and simplified. 

“We all went head-first into this,” Siebert continued. “It’s something I will be able to put on a resume, and I’m having fun and loving it more than I expected.”

St. Charles West senior Levi Virden said the CAPS experience has helped him shore up his weaknesses.

“I’m not the type to be real talkative,” Virden said. “But being here has helped me break through and talk more. It has helped me with my communication skills.”

Moving forward, Virden can see programs like CAPS as a wave of the future at the high school level.

“I see it as what’s coming down the pike, Virden said. “I tell the kids at school about it all the time, and I think it is going to grow. These are all skills that I am going to need. Our county has been off to a great start, and hopefully, in five years I can come back and see how (the program) has improved.”

The local school districts are seeing the future of CAPS as a consortium in St. Charles County. CAPS programs also began this semester in the Wentzville School District by way of their Health Care Academy and Ignite Start-Up/Business Solutions, and the Francis Howell School District is starting a Technology Solutions strand in January for the second semester of the school year.  

Businesses interested in becoming a CAPS partner are encouraged to contact any of the school districts mentioned above for more information.

CUTLINE: Photos by Ray Rockwell Students participating in the Center for Advanced Professional Studies program from St. Charles City School District and Orchard Farm School District meets Monday thru Friday from 7:45 – 10:15 a.m. for the entire school year at their business partner’s host site, OPO Startups located on Main Street in St. Charles.