Why these students are grooming dogs and running a bank—at school

Student-run businesses at Blackman High School in Tennessee give students real-world CTE experience in pet care and finance.

There is a high school in Tennessee where folks can get their dogs groomed and another student-run business operates a branch of a local bank.

Students at Blackman High School in Rutherford County Schools run a dog-grooming operation as part of a small-animal CTE program. Families, staff and community members bring their canines to a specially designated back entrance to get them bathed and beautified to their specifications. The fees they pay help fund the school’s career-oriented agricultural programs.

“We can give our students who have veterinary aspirations the experience to go out and start a business or work for somebody else to pay their way through college,” says Principal Justin Smith, adding, “My dog comes with great regularity.”

The school’s current master groomer is a student who discovered his skills by cutting his own hair during the COVID lockdown. “He realized it’s something he enjoyed and it was a skill he could transfer over to some other areas,” Smith explains.

Students also do some marketing, particularly to family and friends, and have developed a reliable stream of repeat customers thanks to the reasonable pricing of the services, he adds.

Banking on student-run business

For the numerically minded in career tech, students also run a Redstone Federal Credit Union bank branch that the company built inside the high school.

Students also run a Redstone Federal Credit Union bank branch, which is open during lunch.
Students run a Redstone Federal Credit Union bank branch, which is open during lunch.

There, students can open accounts, deposit paychecks and withdraw funds while the branch is open during the lunch period. The students who staff the bank are trained Redstone Federal Credit Union employees who also earn a CTE class credit for their work.

Students receive $500 when they sign up for online banking and use their debit card five times. This has resulted in a “massive” number of students opening accounts. “It’s an opportunity to take the first step into financial literacy. It’s an opportunity to start saving and spending.”

Blackman is the only high school in Tennessee that has its own branded debit card, a service that is also operated by the credit union. The school earns a 10-cent contribution every time someone swipes their Blackman debit card, generating a few hundred dollars a month.

“It’s an easy way for families to support the school,” Smith points out. “As a public school, every little bit counts…every little bit can go a long way.”

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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