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Reading, writing and rocking the mic?

Some of the students at Moline’s John Deere Middle School are spinning a new skill into their extracurricular activities: operating a disc jockey business.

With funding from a federal grant, the Lights On for Learning DJ Club was established at the beginning of 2015, offering a dozen students a weekly opportunity to meet and learn through hands-on work about running a DJ business.

Every week, they review previous dances as far as what went well (or did not), select and preview songs for future dances (including reviewing lyrics for unacceptable material), plan their marketing for the dances, learn about the technology required to throw a successful party and review their budgets while looking for ways to raise money for club sustainability.

“In order to be in the group, students had to fill out an application, their grades had to be good, and they had to be selected for the position,” said Sarah Tollenaer, a grades 6-7 social studies teacher and co-sponsor of the club. “It’s going really well.”

“It’s great,” said Dylan Cross, a seventh-grade science teacher at the school and the club's other co-sponsor. “The kids are learning a lot and have come a long way in a very short time.”

The students have barely scratched the surface of the possibilities, but they are enjoying the go-round so far.

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“It’s really fun. It’s given me a lot of new experiences in regard to technology and meeting new people,” said Christian Campbell, 13, a seventh-grader. “It’s a great after-school thing to do.”

“Listening to music is the best part of it, choosing the music and listening to the lyrics. It’s important to remember because we’re DJ-ing at a school and the lyrics have to be clean,” said Jayimy Antonio, 13, a seventh-grader. “Sometimes, it’s sad because you’ll like a song and you can’t include it, but it’s good for all the kids.”

“I’ve learned a lot about running a business from this, learned to delegate and work as a group,” seventh-grader Zach Wallac, 12, chimed in.

Aside from the fun the kids have in regard to the club, the practical aspects of running a business are likewise invaluable, Cross agreed.

“We teach them how to run a successful business, we have them handle everything from selecting the music to doing the marketing to managing the budgets,” he said. “They learn to work together and how to operate a business hands-on, and that’s something that’s even more valuable than reading about it in a textbook.”

The students will be learning more about the business if everything continues in the current direction, he said. Aside from the successful string of in-school dances they have hosted this year, they’re looking at branching out to other schools in the fall.

“It’s really up to the students how far they can take it,” Cross said. “Anytime you can see kids doing something they enjoy and see them having fun, that’s what it’s all about.”

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