AppsCo is not just an afterschool initiative—it’s a full-blown not-for-profit company that doubles as a fully integrated business learning experience for students in Peoria Public Schools. The organization has already been extraordinarily successful: one of the apps it created for the Peoria Riverfront Museum recently took first prize in the 2017 Congressional App Challenge for the 18th District. iBi spoke with Chris Coplan, communications director for Peoria Public Schools, about AppsCo’s plans for expansion and how the initiative fits into the district’s larger goals.
Tell me more about the APPSCO expansion. How and when is it being expanded?
AppsCo is moving into its third year of existence at Richwoods High School, and we are excited to open as a class embedded in the school day at Richwoods, in addition to growing the afterschool program at Manual in 2018 and Peoria High in 2019. We are in the process of finalizing our online curriculum, which will allow us to expand to other school districts within the United States. We currently have more than a dozen schools waiting for the program.
What lies ahead in the spring semester? Fall of 2018?
Spring 2018 should be amazing! We will be rolling out the app for the Peoria Riverfront Museum, starting on a project for Wildlife Prairie Park, and beginning to work on an employee engagement platform for Unity Point. We have several other potential clients, but need to grow our enrollment in the program before signing on with them.
We are awaiting the fall of 2018 anxiously as we are excited to open at Manual and working with the amazing minds at that school. (Teacher Greg Gilson will be leading the charge at Manual.) The afterschool program promises to be more exciting in the fall of 2018 because for the first time, we will have kids from different schools working together on the same clients. We feel this program will be very uniting between all schools.
How does APPSCO fit into larger goals for the district as a whole?
Pillar 1, targets 4 & 5 of our Strategic Plan identifies that our District wants to move toward more innovative designs and alternative learning experiences to meet the varied needs of our learners. AppsCo is a showcase model that does absolutely that! But it also is meeting needs of our community, which we are equally proud of.
Illinois State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tony Smith considered us one of the most groundbreaking programs he has ever seen, and was awed by our students’ presentations at an experiential learning conference held at Peoria Public Schools last spring. He even wrote about AppsCo in his statewide weekly update. Collectively, the entire AppsCo team is a group of entrepreneurial students who inspire and who are innovative, as shown in their recent work with the Peoria Riverfront Museum and other clients.
What kind of feedback have you received about the program?
The program has incredible support and feedback from sponsors, parents and teachers alike. Most importantly though, it has the continued support of our students, who trust in the volunteers’ and teachers’ ability to lead them. Brian Michael, Appsco COO and VP, is in charge of working with the students on a daily basis and keeping their efforts focused on the task at hand. Some of the areas in which we measure impact and results are:
- Workforce readiness
- Hope of employment
- Improved student performance; and
- General business acumen.
Our 2017 group has won state and national competitions, including the 2017 Congressional App Challenge and the 2017/2018 best video from a high school student for the Illinois Bicentennial Celebration. PS