INDIANAPOLIS - Middle school students at Paramount Schools of Excellence in Indianapolis are getting a unique, hands-on entrepreneurial opportunity. With the help of school staff, the students are running a licensed dairy operation and hub for artisan cheeses, which is being featured at various high-profile restaurants, markets and bistros throughout the state. The mayor-sponsored charter school on the city's near east side has turned about an acre of its campus into a dairy farm.

In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Paramount Schools Farm Director Chris Larson said students are involved in multiple levels of the operation throughout the school year making connections to their curriculum. 

The farm includes dairy goats, chickens, bees and a vegetable production garden. Larson says, in addition to the classroom work during the school year, students are then hired on during the summer as student workers. The students make an aged goat cheese and a ricotta which are featured at various markets and restaurants, such as Joseph Decuis in Roanoke. 

Tommy Reddicks, executive director of Paramount Schools, says having a program like the dairy operation is vital to the students' experience.

"The intensity of work that goes on in our classrooms is really important and it's really integral to the success of our kids but if they can't balance that out with an authentic experience that's kind of recharging, we feel like that we're going to reach burnout and there's no way to sustain," said Reddicks. "So, having some of these really rich programs like the cheese making and the gardening and the summer employment really provide balance for our organization and enable us to keep thriving."

Reddicks says the program provides practical working knowledge that creates a life-long skill for students.