To Ray Parris ’94, ‘96 (Graphic Design BFA, MAT) lemonade stands aren’t just a way for children to make a few extra dollars—they’re a vehicle for teaching valuable business lessons about entrepreneurship and teamwork.
His own taste of entrepreneurship was gained as a child in St. Croix, helping to sell lemonade and tropical drinks from his parents’ grocery store. So when Parris applied for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)’s first ever national Model Teacher Challenge, he knew the sweet and sour treat would be the perfect way to engage his Hialeah Miami-Lakes Senior High School students in the entrepreneurial mindset and illustrate his teaching style.
As part of the contest, Parris designed a two-week “Lemonade Challenge” to engage his students in an entrepreneurial mindset and teach them valuable business and teamwork skills.
“The concept was the kids have to create lemonade,” said Parris, who began teaching NFTE curriculum in 2006. “Pitch the lemonade stand, create the marketing plan, create the economics of one unit, break down the costs and discover what your profit is at the end of the day.”
“It’s not just about making lemonade,” he continued. “It’s also about what problem does your lemonade solve. Like creating a lemonade that helps solve high blood pressure or diabetes and that cuts back on the sugar. We had a lemonade with passion fruit mixed in with mint. A milkshake lemonade. A Mediterranean lemonade. With one, the student’s grandmother sent her the recipe from Cuba to make the lemonade.”
Word of the Lemonade Challenge spread quickly, and before Parris knew it, students from across the school and teachers from across the district were visiting his classroom to learn more about it.
Parris beat five other national finalists for the 2018 NFTE honor, which included a $20,000 cash prize and another $5,000 to fund resources that support entrepreneurship education. As the challenge winner, Parris travels across the country to lead professional development seminars for fellow teachers. He also runs a web and graphic design company in his spare time. Parris also continues to incorporate the challenge into his classes each spring, as well as during summer business camps for area high school students.
At MICA, Parris says he learned the value of collaboration and networking.
“You’re in a room with kids from all over the world,” he said. “I have (college) friends from China who I’m still friends with today. I can easily call them up and say, ‘Hey what do you think about this?’ That network is critical.”
MICA also taught Parris “how to continue to reinvent yourself, how to stay on top of the game, and how to always have a thirst for knowledge and to continue learning,” something he’s hoping his son will learn as a first-year student at MICA in 2019.
“We’re living in a time where skill set is important, but technology is going to change,” he said. “You have to have the mindset to be able to adapt and grow in this society that we live in.”