Tampa Bay area businesses, it’s time to do your homework. August means the start of another school year and, this year, the Tampa Bay area welcomes its first 3DE graduating class.
Facilitated by Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay, 3DE curriculum is a national high school curriculum started as a joint venture between Fulton County Schools, JA of Georgia and the broader Atlanta community. Launched in 2015, at Banneker High School, the curriculum has grown nationwide as 3DE partners with local chapters of JA, businesses and school districts with the goal of transforming public school education.
Since its local launch, in 2020, 3DE has seen substantial growth from four schools to nine, from roughly 400 students in its first cohort, to now over 3,000 participants across Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk County public schools. Plans are in place for a total of 12 schools in the next few years. With business partners across a diverse range of industries like Reliaquest, Power Design, Jabil and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3DE kicks off their first senior year this month with a call to action for Bay Area businesses: Let us school you in our success as you join our winning team.
From a business perspective, 3DE offers the unique opportunity to pay it forward by volunteering time, and expertise to local students while educating future local talent about an industry. One Bay Area business mainstay that has been with JA for decades is Raymond James Financial. As chair and chief executive officer of Raymond James Bank, Steve Raney explains, “our relationship with Junior Achievement goes back many years, probably 25 plus years, so when Tom James and I heard a presentation regarding the new 3DE initiative from the founder and how they were transforming students and their outcomes in Atlanta, we wanted to be a part of the implementation here. Our JA organization in Tampa Bay is really one of the leaders throughout the country, and so it was natural for the Tampa Bay organization to be one of the communities that quickly adopted 3DE.”
As a four-year instructional model following students throughout high school, 3DE relies on the wider community for authentic business connections and mentorships. The 3DE curriculum runs parallel to the normal school curriculum and students in Tampa Bay area participating schools are given the option to join the program, alongside their normal classes.
Christina Roberts, 3DE’s executive director for JA of Tampa Bay, provides the breakdown by year.
“We launch in ninth grade and share real-world business case challenges that the students learn how to collaboratively solve,” she says. “In 10th grade, they’re doing the same thing but they take more of an analytical approach because they’ve already studied six different cases. By 11th grade, they are now becoming entrepreneurial thinkers. So every 11th grader across our four launch schools [St. Petersburg, Dunedin, Tampa Chamberlain and Tampa Hillsborough], had to develop a year-long entrepreneurship project and participated in their school’s pitch competition, with the top four, or five, teams from each school invited to the first annual Innovator’s Showcase’ hosted by Raymond James on April 5, for the first time at Chamberlain High School.”
Other participating schools in the 3DE program include Lakeland Tenoroc, St. Petersburg Gibbs and this upcoming school year’s newest additions, Tampa Blake, Tampa Jefferson and St. Petersburg Lakewood.
The exhibition showcase welcomed the 120-plus 11th-grade students who qualified from their school-wide competitions alongside local business partners, school board members, staff and faculty from participating schools. The teams of 3DE students showcased their projects, each centered around developing and marketing an original product or service, from original skincare items to innovative ideas for snacks.
Raney, who represented Raymond James as a mentor, and judge, for Chamberlain High School’s 3DE pitch competition, called “Market Day,” explains, “I saw 11 of the 21 pitches and heard some unbelievably great ideas, and marketing approaches, everything from how they were going to finance to the business know-how of cost analysis. They were then exposed to a pretty intense question and answer session at the end, much like Shark Tank. The students were really put on the spot and had to think on their feet and they did an amazing job … the entire audience was very impressed with their professionalism and maturity.”
Maintaining the focus on entrepreneurship, this year’s senior class will follow the final step of the 3DE model—learning by case methodology or participating in active, real-world experiential simulations. Student teams will partner with a specific company. The employer will devise a “case”—a problem, product or service need specific to their industry—and ask the student team to solve it.
“JA works with local businesses to develop the projects over seven different touch points that the students will be able to work with. Our business partners choose a topic that best matches their needs so their case can be authentically written. For example, a topic could be creating a campaign for growth strategies or a proposal for a solution design. The employer gets to pick the project and how they want to attentively immerse the students in their business,” Roberts says. “And senior year culminates with the students giving their input to the employer, not only how they will solve the challenge at hand but how they can go about a feasible implementation strategy.”
Roberts is always looking for partners across a diverse range of industries, from ninth or 10th grade case study presenters to the more involved mentorships of 11th or 12th grade.
“Raymond James, like our many other business partners, has really allowed us to transform education,” Roberts says. “We’re taking the traditional standards-based curriculum and we’re infusing it with project-based application. And if we don’t have business leaders like Steve and Raymond James to bring real-world connectivity to the classroom, this model isn’t going to work. And senior year is really taking everything that the students have mastered in ninth-11th grades by providing them with a real-world situation as a consultant for a specific client.”
The senior projects run 18 weeks starting in September and culminating in the early spring.
Raney adds, “I’ve really been impressed with the faculty that’s assigned to 3DE. The teachers and administrators are super energized around this program. They’re feeling empowered as educators, saying ‘This is why I’m doing this as a career’. It’s just been a very positive experience for faculty as well.”
One expansion school for the 2023-24 school year, Jefferson High School, in Tampa, has opted for 100% participation for their entire incoming freshman class.
“The administration is so excited with what they’ve seen across our current six schools,” explains Roberts, “that they have made the determination to elect the entire freshman class and enroll them into 3DE. So this is the first school where we’re going to see school-wide participation, after four years.”
For Tampa Bay area businesses, it’s a win-win solution. “Industry diversification is critical so that we can meet the interests of our students and help the future talent pipeline grow,” Roberts says. “Having additional business partners invest and support our efforts is so needed and appreciated and valued by our students.” ♦