CTE Programs Show CMS Students Different Paths After Graduation

HUNTERSVILLE – In an effort to teach the basics of financial literacy to students at J.M. Alexander Middle School, Brian Hamilton deflected questions about how much money he’s worth by focusing on the process to reach that figure.

The entrepreneur and founder of a foundation was on the latest stop of a tour of North and South Carolina, and Virginia. In 2018, he sold SageWorks, a financial translation software, to a private equity firm.

Alexander is among the majority of middle schools in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in offering courses in entrepreneurship, making Hamilton’s Feb. 21 visit a natural complement to the curriculum.

“It would be great to help young kids while they’re forming rather than wait until they become adults,” Hamilton said. “Entrepreneurship is a financial asset, it’s a construct. And I want to get it into them while they’re young.”

The entrepreneurship courses at Alexander represent a lead-in, or “discovery course” for CMS Career and Technical Education Pathway programs at district high schools. There are 19 career-oriented “pathways,” including engineering, software development and food science.

“Our courses are to help students find that pathway,” said Cynthia Ingram, CTE curriculum coordinator for business. “That pathway may lead straight to college or that pathway could lead to work.”

Business Management is one the pathways at North Mecklenburg High, for which Alexander is a feeder school. North and Hopewell have Graphic and Digital Design and Marketing programs, while students at Hough can take courses in architecture and manufacturing.

Students can earn certifications such as for Microsoft Office and ServSafe in the culinary field, making them more marketable to employers. There also is one for financial literacy.

“We work really closely with the industry to make sure that we’re preparing our students to be able to work in their field of choice,” CTE Assistant Director Ashlee Campbell said. “We want all students to walk across stage with a network and plan.”

And through Hamilton’s presentation, he hopes students have the knowledge of what’s necessary to start and run a successful business.

“That’s my goal, (to) actually show them what they need to do,” Hamilton said. “Talk about the benefits but how to actually do it. That’s the most important thing, to walk out of here and do something.”

His advice to young people who want to start a business immediately?

“Come up with a business idea and get their first customer,” he said. “Something low-capital. Something on Craigslist. Dog walking, a pooper-scooper business. You’d be surprised how much you learn.”