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Berkmar High School students really mean business

Berkmar High School students have long been known for their hospitality to the community. Past gatherings like Taste of Berkmar and the Jazz and Arts Festival have brought thousands of people together for food and fun.

But from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. this Thursday, Berkmar students will be outdoing themselves by hosting the first-ever Greater Lilburn Business Expo. Teaming up with the Lilburn Business Association and the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, business, technology and culinary arts students will provide 100 businesses the opportunity to network with thousands of potential customers and contacts while gaining valuable life experience for themselves.

"This Expo project ties in with a Learn and Serve grant from the Georgia Department of Education," said Polly Bridges, a Nutrition and Food Science teacher. "Students so often say, 'Why do I have to learn this? I'm never going to use this in the real world,' but this Expo ties the real world right in with their class work."

That real world in this case includes not only real life skills like planning, budgeting and organizing, but also service.

"The community serves us, so we in turn serve the community," Bridges explained. But the concept of community is not just the people out there who might attend. Just as important, it's about the community of those who are doing the serving.

"We hope it will improve attendance because they know someone is counting on them to be in class to continue the project," Bridges said.

Her students seemed pretty excited about learning and serving.

"I'll be an ambassador and help people set up their stuff," Sierra Anderson said.

"We just want to help out Ms. Bridges, but it will also be good experience for us for college," Etsegenet Ejigu said.

"I don't care what position I have, as long as I'm helping," said Karina Mendoza, and Priscilla Rodriguez added, "I think it will be fun."

Orlando Pinner said, "It will be good to see other businesses and how people got started and get to do some networking."

"I like the different experiences and the idea of resume expansion," Shaun Hudson said. "I want to put as many things on my resume as possible."

Bridges's students will be handling the concessions and will prepare most of the food from scratch. They created their own hot sauce recipe for the chicken wings and determined as a group which desserts would likely sell best. They will spend all day Thursday baking and wrapping homemade cookies - white chocolate macadamia, oatmeal and chocolate chip.

With the economic situation being what it is, the Lilburn Expo should help anyone trying to get better connected in the world of business. As for me, I'm going for the cookies.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.

SideBar: If You Go

What: Greater Lilburn Business Expo

Where: Berkmar High School

When: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday

More info: www.lilburnexpo.com