This article originally appeared in the winter 2015 Harker Quarterly.
This fall two popular Harker programs expanded their offerings thanks to generous grants from the Paramitas Foundation. The business & entrepreneurship (B.E.) department and the lower and middle school performing arts programs each received support from the foundation, which was founded by Harker parent Winston Chen.
Chen launched the Paramitas Foundation in 1992 with the mission to support universities, and environmental and community service organizations. Since then, the foundation has set up numerous scholarships and research projects. Chen and his wife, Phyllis Huang, are the parents of Harker students Karina Chen, grade 7, and Nicole Chen, grade 9.
Growth of the Business and Entrepreneurship Department
Because of the Paramitas Foundation’s past and current pledge of support over the next two years, as well as other contributions, the B.E. department has been able to enhance its program and add to its staff. Launched in 2013, the department has rapidly grown to offer a variety of inspiring programs providing business and entrepreneurial education, leadership opportunities and career preparatory programs to upper school students.
“The Paramitas Foundation grant has been essential to the development and expansion of all that we have done within the business and entrepreneurship department,” said Juston Glass, B.E. director. “The programs that bring opportunities for our students to grow as emerging leaders, budding entrepreneurs and future business professionals wouldn’t be available if it weren’t for the generosity of the foundation and Mr. Chen. I am very grateful for their support, enthusiasm for our mission, and kindness to provide us the resources to make it all possible.”
The business and entrepreneurship curriculum focuses on developing real-world business acumen, entrepreneurial readiness and innovative skills. Students learn about marketing, finance, management and entrepreneurship through introductory business courses, attending multiple business and entrepreneurial events held throughout the year, and by participating in the Harker DECA chapter, an internationally recognized, award-winning competitive business organization.
Junior Alexis Gauba said that taking part in the various programs in the B.E. department has given her opportunities and experiences that will be invaluable going into college and beyond. “As a part of CareerConnect, I’ve been able to see visionaries like Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey speak at conferences and build up a professional network by interacting with leaders in various fields. Through DECA I’ve been able to write business plans and pitch product ideas to judges at international competitions, and now I’m able to mentor younger members as they are doing the same,” she shared.
CareerConnect is a student-led networking, career preparatory and professionalism program for rising sophomores and juniors, designed to prepare Harker students for future success in college and the workplace.
Harker also partners with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to bring students an intensive and experiential program focusing on corporate strategy, entrepreneurial principles, financial literacy, business plans, and how to grow and develop one’s business endeavors.
Meanwhile, TEDxHarkerSchool, which this year drew more than 250 attendees, is a program of local, self-organized events that brings people together to share a TED-like experience.
Last December, B.E. held its inaugural Harker BEcon2014, a business, economics and entrepreneurship conference for Bay Area students featuring a wide variety of respected Silicon Valley business professionals.
Performing Arts Soars to New Heights
At Harker’s lower and middle schools, performing arts classes include music, theater and dance instruction. Through these classes students build literacy, learn problem-solving and teamwork, build poise and confidence in performing and develop a stage presence early on that carries over into the classroom and in their future academic careers.
One such program is Dance Fusion, Harker’s grade 4-6 girls and boys dance ensemble. This by-audition group comprises skilled dancers who work together at a fast pace to learn and perform routines with high energy, precision and enthusiasm. In addition to weekly classes, students who land a coveted spot in the group attend weekly rehearsals for their special performances.
Dance Fusion regularly performs its high-energy routines at the annual Harker Family & Alumni Picnic as well as the multi-campus holiday assemblies. “I am thankful for the support the Paramitas Foundation has given to Dance Fusion. By supporting the hiring of guest choreographers, the foundation makes it possible for me to spend more time choreographing and preparing the students for their performances,” said Gail Palmer, K-8 dance instructor and Dance Fusion’s director.
Dancer Anna Bean, grade 5, reported that one thing she really likes about Dance Fusion is how “it lets you get out of your comfort zone. You are challenged to the point where you are having a lot of fun. The week before [a show] is hard but it really prepares you!”
In addition, funding allowed for the purchase of a portable sound system and a projector for the middle school dance room, both of which are a huge help with rehearsals.