Trevon Mincy has found a class that combines two of his passions.
“I like eating and I like selling stuff,” the 17-year-old Ridge View High School senior said of learning about mobile and nontraditional food service, otherwise known as the food truck class.
You won’t find a class like it anywhere but at the new Richland 2 Institute of Innovation.
The students of the inaugural class at what officials call R2i2 were introduced to their new $40 million facility at the Village at Sandhill on Monday.
This is not your mama’s career center.
In fact, it’s not at all what R2i2 director Kevin Alberse would consider the typical career and technology education center for students.
“We want our kids to be immediately and immensely employable,” Alberse said. “The advantages that they’ll have is when they learn these skills ahead of their counterparts, they’re actually going to be ahead of the curve.
The goal is to make the students “the creators and the innovators of the next thing that happens rather than waiting on something else to happen,” he said.
About 80 students, – juniors and seniors drawn from Richland 2’s five high schools – are taking take one of six unique classes offered this semester:
▪ Mobile and nontraditional food service.
▪ Application development for Apple equipment.
▪ Supply chain and global logistics management.
▪ Managerial accounting and finance.
▪ Computer-aided design and manufacturing.
▪ Alternative energy and fuel cell development.
These classes are designed to be geared toward local industries and employers such as Volvo and Boeing and exclusively use computer software that R2i2 students will get to learn earlier than their counterparts in college, Alberse said.
“I would hope for any of (the students) to get a better understanding of what they might like to do in the future, but also to get a better understanding of what opportunities there are in the future,” said Kirstin Bullington, who teaches an class that will focus on non-fossil fuel energy and engineering for environmental sustainability.
“Here, we’re not really restricted by end-of-course exams or whatever else, so if they have an idea, we can explore it,” she said. “This is the way education’s supposed to be.”
Unique building features – such as exposed pipes and ducts for study of energy sources and classrooms big enough to drive a food truck into – are designed to complement classes that can also mesh with each another. For example, the food truck entrepreneurship class might partner with the supply chain class and the managerial accounting class as students learn the basics of running a business.
Abriana Gibbs, a 17-year-old senior at Blythewood High, is one of five classmates in Mincey’s the food truck class. Already accepted to Johnson & Wales University culinary school in Charlotte, Gibbs said she expects to learn skills about working collaboratively and how to treat people in service situations.
She and fellow students will not only learn the basics of entrepreneurship and managing a business, but will work directly with food truck businesses from the community to create and serve meals at R2i2.
Some of Gibbs’ classmates said they were drawn to the class because they enjoy cooking or, like 16-year-old Megan Boyd, because they hope to run or own a business one day.
“I’m hoping to learn patience because you’ve got to be able to work with people and know how to handle different attitudes and personalities day-to-day in customers.” said Boyd, a Blythewood junior.
The roughly 215,000-square-foot R2i2 facility – paid for with $40 million in unused bond debt – is home to much more than the six initial R2i2 courses. Sharing the space are:
▪ 185 new offices and spaces for district personnel, including Superintendent Debbie Hamm, along with a new room for school board meetings. Richland 2 officials long wanted new headquarters to replace the one next to Forest Lake Elementary. The concept of R2i2 started about six years ago just as new district offices before expanding to the idea of a learning center, said Jack Carter, the district’s chief operations officer.
▪ The relocated Sandhills branch of the Richland County library, which is expected to open in its 30,000-square-foot wing by November.
▪ A conference center capable of seating nearly 700 people. The space can be rented for community events as which beer and wine can be served. The center already is reserved for a fundraiser, a business expo and two proms, Carter said.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.