It’s fifth period in a carel in a corner of the library, and sports-marketing senior Breven McPeak is selling Christiansburg High School.
Breven and the marketing he’s doing to promote engagement in school sporting and cultural events are part of MCPS’s work-based learning program, a rigidly structured national effort built to connect students with professionally coordinated and supervised work. Begun in 2015 with 20 work-based learning students, this year, there are 300.
In garages, kindergartens, kitchens, landscapes, construction sites, offices and a small library carel, work-based learning students are applying classroom content to real world work, gaining credentials, building confidence, and deciding whether the career will suit them.
It suits Breven. So much so that, he’s brought his own personal flair and innovation to the still-young program and, poring over the analytics of the school’s Super Fan High app he’s managing, all the lines are pointing up for greater attendance at the school’s theater and sporting events, and, it’s pretty clear, for Breven’s future.
The school itself is certainly benefiting, according to Principal Tony Deibler in his office waiting McPeak to arrive during fifth period, the time work-based learning allot to work.
“I can’t compare it to last year’s attendance, but our revenues are up,” Deibler said. “We didn’t have a good football season – lost every game, but our revenue was up for ticket sales. Obviously, we want to help fund our events, but we just want kids there to support the team or the theater.”
Using the SuperFan app, people attend a play or a game, they earn points – extra points sweeten the draw to less popular events. Of the 1050 students at CHS, 700 people, students and teachers, have uploaded the app.
Deibler, full of ideas and enthusiasm, is sold on the app’s power to engage students, teachers, and community.
“So when they get to certain points, they get rewards: free tickets to another game, free ice cream from sponsors like Dairy Queen. Eventually, the big prize will be a Super Fan T-shirts. I’d like to have more rewards. A person in the community – one of our soccer coaches, said he’ll print T-shirts. Say a kid wins more than once – he can get different colored shirts,” Deibler said.
The bell sounds for fifth period and Breven arrives. Tall, thin, and thoughtful, taking his gum out of his mouth before he meets new people.
His principal praises his work, but McPeak seems just glad to be doing it.
“I hope that what I’m doing is going to help me out with my career path if I want to do something like social media or sports marketing. There’s not too many students who can say, like, ‘I ran the school’s sports app’ and ‘I ran the Twitter page for the athletic department’, but I am doing that,” McPeak said.
And it’s not an easy job. Breven inputs the points people win, and posts schedules of Home and Away events, even ACT and SAT test dates. He uses Google maps to identify the place where people are checking in at a game, using a positioning program called Geofencing to make sure they’re actually there when they say they are. He’s also managing the Demon Athletics Twitter account requiring him to be engaged and responsible.
“Yeah. He works with the school, updating the scores and tweeting when somebody does some terrific thing. Announcing somebody scored a touchdown. A lot of times, other schools retweet it. It promotes the school,” Deibler said.
With power, though, comes responsibility, and Deibler was nervous at first.
“With the Twitter account, when a student runs things…they may not be looking at the same things I’m looking at as an administrator. But Breven’s shown a lot of wisdom and maturity with the things he tweets out. He’s shown a lot of wisdom about things identifying what’s appropriate and not appropriate. I’ve been impressed.”
“I don’t want to lose the credibility of the account by posting something offensive or something. Credibility’s a hard thing to get back,” Breven said.
A friend had had the marketing position before Breven, showed him the ropes, training him how to do it, like in the real world, but now he’s added a personal touch.
“I try to have my own thing. Like when he did it, he used, like, “Hashtag Demons”, you know, whatever, and I tried to do my own thing, so I used “Hashtag Demons,” but then did a little flag, which was the flag of Barbados, which kinda [sic] looks like the flag for our school. So I kind of made that my thing. And that really caught on. And people are like buying the flag and all that stuff now.”
Marketing theory from class is directly relevant to the work McPeak does and the analytics he’s using.
“In social media class there’s a simulation where we practice posting to the public at certain times and certain dates and we see how many engagements that gets and you have to find what people click on and what they want to see. So we worked on that a lot,” he said.
His larger goal is media administrator for ESPN.
“To do stuff for their media bases and Sports Center Top 10 and when they post to Instagram and all that stuff. I want to help out with all that,” he said.
Interestingly, the college he’s interested in having an internship program.
“Utah Valley University, north of Salt Lake City. I’d like to go there and do some sort of marketing. They have an internship where they’re connected to the Utah Jazz and the soccer teams. If I could somehow get onto that, that would be cool.”
He advises other students to participate – not just in work-based learning, but in everything their schools can offer.
“Get involved,” he said. Adding, “There are more classes at this school than people know about. You can take two years and then leave with your associates with a variety of things – like cosmetology – a lot of things,” he said. “Figure out what your school has and what you want to do.”
At the end of the interview, it’s back to work. He shakes hands all around, then turns to Principal Deibler, “I’ll put that scrimmage in. We’ll make it five points?”