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Creating a Lasting Impression

Peoria Student Showcases Creativity

The new school year is about to kick off, meaning thousands of Peoria students are heading back for another year of learning and opportunity. Many students seek opportunities to showcase their creative talents. The opportunity came during senior year for one former student who recently graduated from Liberty High School. 

Jacob Tanner, who graduated in May 2023, has always had the creative bug. “I love making art. I love making specialty graphic designs for people," shares Tanner. So, when one of his teachers noticed him doodling and working on sketches for another project, it caught her eye immediately.

FBLA's Entrepreneurship Co-Lab Program

JoDee Pennock, Business Teacher and Future Business Leaders of American (FBLA) Advisor noticed Tanner sketching, and she realized there was something there. She encouraged him to join FBLA’s Entrepreneurship Co-Lab program.

The program aims to teach students the ins and outs of entrepreneurship, such as creating a business and financial plan for running a business. It is a partnership between the Peoria Unified School District and Arizona State University’s J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute.

According to Barbara Coakley, Peoria Unified Career and Technical Education (CTE) Director, the program serves all students curious about entrepreneurship.

“Students participating in the Entrepreneurship Co-Lab will be guided through the entrepreneurial process by mentors and local entrepreneurs and will be provided with access to resources and contacts to assist them with their own entrepreneurship journey,” says Coakley.  “As students work through the process, ideate, develop, and iterate, they will be provided with feedback along the way, have opportunities to practice pitches, and work towards the creation of their own venture that can be pitched at the ASU Venture Devil Demo Day for funding.”

“As a district, we want to take entrepreneurship to the next level. We want to support students with business ideas and help them make authentic, real-world connections with business mentors,” says Pennock.

Tanner's Artistic and Entrepreneurial Journey

For teachers like Pennock, it was easy to see the prospects for Tanner. “After seeing different artwork examples, I encouraged Jacob to use a 9-week project to develop a painting business,” says Pennock.

For Tanner, however, he couldn’t commit to joining the program full-time, but that didn’t stop him from learning and engaging with the instructors and fellow classmates as much as possible. That spurred an idea from Pennock on how Tanner could showcase his talents outside of school.

“This past year, my family began a huge landscaping project in our backyard,” shares Pennock. She hired Tanner to add a tropical-inspired mural that can be admired from the yard and inside the home.

Tanner says he was excited about sharing his artwork with Pennock and her family, so it was a no-brainer to accept the job and see what he could create. 

It took several trips to Pennock’s home over a few weeks, a couple of hours at a time, to complete the design. “It wasn’t too time-consuming, and honestly, it was really fun to see my design come to life on the wall.”

According to Pennock, the painting is reminiscent of Rocky Point, Mexico, with a blend of vibrant and bold colors. After sharing her favorite types of trees, plants, flowers, and animals, Tanner was on his own.

“I wanted Jacob to have creativity on this project, so I told him once he started painting, I wanted to get out of the way and allow his creativity to take the lead,” says Pennock. “It was interesting to watch the process and progress each week. My nephew, who owns a paint business, was so impressed by the details in the mural he asked for Jacob’s contact info in case he’d like to hire him on special projects.”

For Tanner, designing and creating made this project so enticing and exciting. “I love making art. I love making designs for people. Getting to create specialized artwork for people is fun, and seeing the success afterward is rewarding,” he says.

And it goes well beyond wall painting. Tanner has done all types of design work, from tattoos to landscapes and just about everything in between. “If I can do it, I’ll do it. I enjoy creating and showcasing my artistic abilities. It’s fun, energetic, and I love a challenge when creating something new,” says Tanner.

“Don’t let anyone else tell you you’re wrong or that you cannot do it. If you feel like it is a genuinely good idea, do it, work hard for it, and achieve it.”