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Project ECHO Students Reap Rewards:

Santa Monica High School Project ECHO students saluted aspiring entrepreneurs at their awards banquet honoring 41 students on Friday, June 10.

“I had a lot of fun and am very grateful for the scholarship money. Before Project ECHO, I was close to dropping out of school; now I am going to college!” Marlyn Lainez, a graduating senior, said.

Students received a total of over $9,000 in recognition awards and scholarships at the banquet, which was attended by fellow students, teachers, school administrators, parents and member of the community.

Currently in its sixth year at Samohi, Project ECHO is running strong with two full-time teachers, Anita Kemp and Teri Jones. The students run the snack bar (the Vikes’ Café) as well as the student store (the Vikes’ Inn), and are responsible for managing, staffing and stocking the store.

“Our annual awards celebration is not just a time for students to receive scholarships and recognition. It’s also a time to share, reflect and inspire,” Kemp said. “Each year I walk away knowing that we have made a difference in the lives of our students.”

Both Project ECHO businesses at Samohi made a profit this year, grossing close to $200,000 in sales, and the students shared in the profits in the form of scholarships, internships and savings bonds.

“The awards and scholarship program is the perfect way for us to recognize the incredible accomplishments these students have made. The dinner is always full of hugs, tears, laughter and celebration. I know we’ll see many of the graduates back as college and business mentors, so we never say good-bye,” Jones said.

Tony Lardas, McDonald’s owner/operator said, “The skills the students learn in this program are invaluable to their future growth whether they choose to own or operate their own business or work in a business either in the private or public sector. These are skills they will always be able to use.”Project ECHO (Entrepreneurial Concepts Hands-On) is a not-for-profit educational organization made up of community leaders, business people, and educators who believe that the hands-on activities involved in starting and running a business are vital tools that help develop critical skills and teach relevant business concepts to kids.

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