Ambitious Applications

Peoria Public Schools’ (PPS) AppsCo initiative is generating a lot of buzz. AppsCo, which stands for “A Peoria Public Schools Company,” is a real-world learning experience designed to build students’ entrepreneurial skills—and raise funds for the school district in the process. It focuses on teaching business basics, mobile app development, and marketing and sales tactics so participating students can sell their products to local organizations.

The innovative program was conceived by local entrepreneur Alexis Khazzam, in collaboration with PPS and Junior Achievement (JA), and launched at Richwoods High School in 2016. It operates as a student-run nonprofit, with Richwoods teacher Tom Hayes acting as CEO.

AppsCo students first participate in JA’s “Be Entrepreneurial” program to learn about product development, financing, marketing and sales. They’re then matched to job roles and mentored by local business leaders as they develop business plans and mobile apps for clients. The students even earn a paycheck while they develop skills and experience that will help them succeed in college and the job market.

So far, AppsCo has created apps for Mt. Hawley Country Club and the Peoria Riverfront Museum, and generated $14,000 for the Peoria Schools Foundation. Projects for Peoria Stadium, Wildlife Prairie Park and UnityPoint Health are also underway, while PPS recently approved the program’s expansion to Manual and Peoria High School.

AppsCo’s impact seems to be expanding rapidly. One AppsCo team recently won the 2017 Congressional App Challenge for the 18th District for its app showcasing the museum’s events. In December, Mariah Cooley, Ruby Hirschmann, Shaelyn Johnson and Montreal Thomas were recognized by Congressman Darin LaHood for their achievement and the group may travel to Washington, DC in the spring for an awards ceremony. Their winning app will be featured in the U.S. Capitol and on the House of Representatives website, house.gov.

Khazzam predicts AppsCo could eventually generate as much as $100,000 annually for the school district. PPS is currently in the process of finalizing next year’s curriculum and hopes to expand the program nationally—there are already more than a dozen schools waiting. iBi

On the PS Blog: Read "On AppsCo: Q&A with Chris Coplan" to learn more about AppsCo’s plans for expansion and how the initiative fits into the district’s larger goals. 

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