Rollout of New Program at Hillside Elementary Gives “Small” Business a New Meaning

Hillside 5th graders Nadia Khalaj , Morgan Santonastaso, Nicole Antwi, and Max Miller during workshop 1. Credits: Rongrong Zhuang

LIVINGSTON, NJ – Love for the award-winning TREP$ entrepreneurial-education program was in the air when the program officially launched at Hillside Elementary School (HES) on Valentine’s Day.  

More than 100 fourth-and fifth-grade students are now participating in the program, originally introduced in 2006 by the certified teacher moms of two enterprising West Millford, NJ 10 year olds. 

The boys accepted their moms’ challenge to raise their own money at a local market fair by selling a handmade wrapping paper product they came up with and produced themselves.  Seeing in action how developing a small business idea and bringing the product to market inspired engagement, confidence and self-esteem in their children, Pamela deWaal and Hayley Romano decided to create a full-blown program—complete with a curriculum and workshops designed to work in tandem with the educational standards being used in New Jersey schools. 

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Under the guidance of two other moms and HES program leads, PTA Co-president Denise Dunton and PTA corresponding secretary Jennifer Bonardi, and with the support of HES Principal Carlos Gramata, Hillside is the first of the district’s schools to implement the program. 

"As soon as I heard about the TREP$ program, I knew I wanted to bring it to our school,” said Dunton. “I loved the idea that the children would get an opportunity to use their creativity and imagination to develop something of their own while learning important life skills, such as time and money management and teamwork.”

Echoing Dunton, Gramata said that Hillside is thrilled to bring TREP$ to the district.

“In addition to exposing our fourth and fifth graders to the principles of entrepreneurism, this program is supporting character development by building confidence and perseverance in our students,” he said. “We look forward to our Marketplace where all are welcome."

The “marketplace” he refers to is the culmination of the six-week program in which students are tasked with researching and developing the products and services they will ultimately sell at the Marketplace event next month. 

Before they can reveal their wares on Marketplace eve, however, students will work with four HES staffers who guide them through creative exercises designed to teach the participants about various aspects of entrepreneurism and help them on their journey towards fleshing out their concepts and bringing them to fruition. 

Students enroll in six successive workshops that focus on: basic tenants of entrepreneurship; production costs, pricing, marketplace demands, and best strategies for turning a profit; marketing (receiving feedback from local small business owners in response to student presentations); the power of advertising; sales strategies; and a recap workshop which follows the Marketplace event in which lessons learned are discussed.

"The program is a great way to strategically teach our children the skills necessary to start a business and show them the value of earning money by working hard and being creative,” said Bonardi. “As an educator, I am impressed with the many academic, social and executive functioning skills learned through TREP$, including math, creative writing, oral presentation, research, organizational skills, decision-making, flexible thinking and planning.”

Dunton added that over the past couple workshops, the excitement from the children “radiates the room.”

“It has been incredible to see what these children come up with during the challenges,” she said. “I can't wait to see the amazing businesses these children create at the Marketplace." 

The Marketplace will be held from 6:00-8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 18 at HES. The entire Livingston community is invited to attend at no charge, although attendees are encouraged to consider purchasing the inventive products and services on display.

The TREP$ program is made possible through funding largely sponsored by Regal Bank and the support of Regal Bank Vice President/Business Development and Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce (LACC) board member Monte Ehrenkranz. 

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