Through the Kauffman Foundation, the Fort Osage School District has a chance to better prepare its students for the real world in the Kansas City area.

After Superintendent Jason Snodgrass attended a meeting with the Kauffman Foundation, he suggested the school apply for a grant to help the district significantly increase the number of students who graduate high school with market value assets.

Recently, the district received an $85,000 grant from the Kauffman Foundation to get the process underway. The district hired business and community coordinator Dylan Peterson to lead the project.

The grant is being used to pay Peterson’s salary and help cover travel expenses.

“She’s working with our school district staff and businesses in the community,” Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Maria Fleming said of Peterson. “She’s building those partnerships and helping us put this together.”

“We will use some money to send administrators, our business coordinator and some community people to school districts in the region. We’ll do some travel to San Diego, a place that we’re looking to go, to look to see what they are doing with projects like this.”

There are five different ways to earn market value assets — achieve nine or more college credit hours, an internship of at least 120 hours, a client project, earning an industry recognized credential such earning certification for being a certified nursing assistant, and an entrepreneurial experience such as helping run a store of business.

Peterson is actively recruiting businesses in the Kansas CIty area to help students with getting market value assists. This school year is the district’s “pilot year” to come up with ideas to increase the number of students with market value assets. It will start implementing those ideas over the next three years.

“We want to get (the opportunities to earn market value assets) in every classroom,” Peterson said. “Students will get a lot of hands-on experience talking to business people and they will know how to deal with actual clients.”

The Buckner Chamber of Commerce is one client immediately getting involved. Students in the high school’s cybersecurity class will be tasked with helping build a website for the chamber, which is currently just a link on the city of Buckner website.

“That’s what the Kauffman Grant would refer to as a client project,” Fleming said. “We have a client, the Buckner Chamber of Commerce, that is giving us and parameters and directions to our students.”

“Then our students are going to build their website to help meet their business needs.”

Added Peterson: “This is going to have real-world implications because they are launching this website for everyone to see.”

An idea Peterson has come up with for an entrepreneurial experience is starting a school store at the Lewis and Clark Alternative School. The students have already come up with a name – “the Swag Wagon.”

“We’re still in the beginning stages of planning the client projects,” Peterson said. “They want all the classes at Lewis and Clark to be a part of (the Swag Wagon). The math kids would work on the accounting. The English class would work on the business plan. It’s a long-term planning process.”

According to Fleming, the goal is to have 90 percent of high school students graduate with a market value asset by approximately 2025.

“We have to come up with a plan to double the amount of kids who graduate with market value assets over the next few years,” Fleming said.

The goal for this school year, is to come up with a plan to present to the Kauffman Foundation by the end of the year. If board approves it, the district can receive more grant money.

“We’re really excited about this opportunity,” Peterson said. “Fort Osage does a really good job of getting students to graduation, but we have a long-term mindset. We don’t want our students to not just graduate with a diploma, but we want them to graduate with skills they can use.”