Santa Monica High School students learned the benefits of reinvesting in their local community and environment through the Buy Local Santa Monica Challenge Program in their senior year.
To learn about what buying local means, students from Jenna Gasparino’s English class and Ken Petronis’ statistics class visited neighborhood businesses, interviewed business owners and presented their findings to a community panel.
“The goal of the student project was to get kids to see the economic power they hold simply by making certain buying decisions,” Jennifer Taylor, senior development analyst for the city of Santa Monica, said in a statement. “We wanted them to understand that teenagers have a voice and the ability to change the community they live in through the establishments they frequent and the purchases they make.”
Some may say the hardest hit residents from the current financial downturn have been Santa Monica’s children, with school programs being cut and class sizes expanding. The passages of municipal Measures Y and YY were meant to ensure that the budget shortfalls would be covered by newly generated sales taxes. However, the generation of revenue depends on local sales, which help support schools and vital city services.
Through the school project, kids learned about purchasing power and the concept of economic reinvestment.
“The goal of the student project was to get kids to see the economic power they hold simply by making certain buying decisions,” said Taylor. “We wanted them to understand that teenagers have a voice and the ability to change the community they live in through the establishments they frequent and the purchases they make.”
As part of the program students researched the implications of buying local, visited and interviewed local establishments, posted blogs and wrote papers that demonstrated the results of their investigation. The program concluded with students giving a demonstration to the community.
They also visited dozens of local stores and restaurants and signed them up to the Buy Local program. One of the students, Jake Squier, started a blog called Grub Tough to review the many restaurants he visited.
Grub Tough developed a substantial following and he’s now thinking of starting a new Grub when he heads off to college this fall.
“It’s our responsibility to educate our peers about the importance of buying local,” Jake stated in his presentation.
During the student’s final presentations, they reflected upon the importance of having good schools, good community and reinvesting locally.
The students also estimated that of the $100,000 spent on prom each year in Beverly Hills, around $45,000 to $68,000 would be invested back into the city if the event were held locally, said Taylor. One the students involved in the program has vowed to investigate the possibility for next year’s prom and has even made contact with local Santa Monica hotels to research the possibility, she said.
“I was completely blown away by the depth of understanding the kids achieved through this project,” said Debbie Lee, director of marketing for downtown Santa Monica, Inc. “Their presentation demonstrated that they understand the interdependence of a community, and that healthy sustainable communities are created by people of all ages buying local.”
“The students rose to the Buy Local Santa Monica Challenge in a major way,” said Laurel Rosen, president and CEO of the Santa Monica chamber. “They submitted more than 40 blog posts giving great tips about local cheap eats, favorite coffee bars, cool clothing shops, even well-loved dentists. And between both teams, they were able to sign up an additional 100 businesses to the Buy Local program . . . that’s pretty impressive.”
Taylor hopes to see all the business in Santa Monica join the program, she said.
“We hope people will always think local first,” Taylor said. “I hope certainly that within L.A. County and the region (the “buy local” concept will grow) and raise awareness on the global level to sustain a healthy ecosystem and economy.”