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Class helps students help town’s economy

December 1, 2011

Big Pine High School is offering an ROP Chamber class that teaches chamber of commerce business and activities, and is serving as a surrogate chamber for the town. The class recently assisted with decorating the town’s namesake at the corner of U.S. 395 and S.R. 168. The official lighting of the tree will take place at 5 p.m. Sunday, and should be well attended, as was last year’s lighting. Photo ubmitted by Cheri Fendon

A new class at Big Pine High School aims to teach students marketable skills while at the same time trying to boost the town’s commerce and visibility.
The town lacks a Chamber of Commerce so the Inyo County Office of Education has prepared an accredited course for students that will also fill the void left from by the lack of a chamber.
Big Pine High School is the only school in the county to offer a Regional Occupational Program Chamber Class. The class, in its first year and currently with 12 students, teaches the fundamentals of a chamber of commerce and visitors center as a town’s promoter and civic action leader, said Cheri Fendon, one of the class’ instructors.
Pamela Jones, BPHS superintendent, said the class is part of the Inyo County’s Superintendent of School’s revamping of the ROP system, which now offers course sets on a series of specific career-oriented tracks and hands-on instruction.
The class is taught by veterans of the business and technology sector. Fendon, for example, is a former businesswoman now pursuing her “first love” of teaching. The class works in conjunction with an ROP Graphic Arts Design class taught by Sharon Freilish and the web design instruction from Kerry Koontz, who has a business and technology background.
Fendon explained the students are learning marketing and business skills as well as gaining knowledge of how whole communities work together, with promotion bringing in tourist dollars that help to support jobs and the local economy. The students take ideas from the classroom and input from the Civic Club to the drafting table and computer by designing brochures in the graphic arts class.
The students are working on a website for the town.
Fendon said the class is getting ready for a flurry of holiday activities, including the town Christmas tree-lighting and a decorating contest.
The class recently helped the Big Pine Civic Club hang Christmas lights on the big tree by the Visitors Center kiosk at the north end of town. The official Christmas tree lighting will begin at 5 p.m. Sunday. The lighting will include hot chocolate, singing and caroling and visit from Old Saint Nick himself.
“The students enjoyed finding out how that undertaking is accomplished and the extra manpower was appreciated,” Fendon said.
An idea was struck in October by the students of the Chamber Class and they approached the Big Pine Civic Club with the idea of using the extra lights to decorate the downtown area.
“Thanks to the support and enthusiasm of the Civic Club, the light poles along U.S. 395 will be decorated, illuminating Big Pine for the enjoyment of locals and tourists this season as they pass through town,” Fendon said in a press release.
The ROP Chamber Class is also encouraging businesses and residents to light up their town by joining the Holiday Decorating Contest this year, Fendon added judging will be conducted by students the week before Christmas. She said participants simply need to decorate and then call her for future judging, call at (760) 935-2222, ext. 268.
Jones said the reaction to the ROP Chamber Class has been “heartwarming.” She said it is great for the kids to interact with the community at a mature and business-like level.

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