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In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new university in town: it’s called “Chocolate University.” It’s a partnership between local chocolate manufaturer, Askinosie Chocolate, and Springfield students. The goals of the program are twofold: to teach kids about business, and to unite them with people around the world. KSMU’s Jennifer Moore reports.
This week, elementary schoolchildren on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines are “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” over a new computer, and experiencing, many of them for the first time, the wonders of the World Wide Web. The computer was paid for by a group of students over 8,000 miles away, at Pipkin Middle School here in Springfield.It’s part of a project called “Cocoa Cares,” which fits within the larger framework of “Chocolate University.” And its main campus is here, at Askinosie Chocolate on Commercial Street.
SOUND: Taping boxesOn this day, an employee is taping up boxes which will be used to ship chocolate all across the country. The hum of a nearby machine is a constant as it stirs a hazelnut chocolate spread.Chocolate-Maker-in-Chief is Shawn Askinosie, founder of Askinosie Chocolate. He said both the American and the Philippines communities will benefit from the new computer.“The kids in Springfield will not only be emailing the kids in the Philippines, but they will have conversations over Skype, and have real time conversations with video so they can see each other and talk to each other. The kids in the Philippines speak English, so this will be a great opportunity for them to communicate with each other,” Askinosie says.The closest internet connection to the elementary school, he said, was a couple of miles away. But that wasn’t the most challenging part of this project."More difficult than the internet connection was us actually donating the money. The Philippines Department of Education is very careful about how money is transferred from well-meaning donors to their schools," he said.Askinosie says he had to sign a seven-page agreement before being able to wire the money to the Philippines. The end result, he says, is that bridges will be built between two very different cultures.“One of the ways that we can change the world is by exposing young people to developing countries. And while I can’t take these Pipkin students to the Philippines, at least not yet, the next best thing is this project," he said.Askinosie says he also hopes the project can expand by providing kids in both schools flip cameras, so they can share videos of what their homes are like. SOUND: Chocolate pump
Employees at the chocolate factory pump chocolate into various molds. The cocoa comes from farmers around the world, including Ecuador, Mexico, and the Philippines.
Chocolate University is a partnership between Askinosie Chocolate, Boyd Elementary School, Pipkin Middle School, Central High School, and Drury University. The program is funded by public tours of the factory, which take place every Tuesday afternoon at 3:00. The students have had several assignments, ranging from drawing up business models to researching where the beans come from to—their favorite assignment—taste testing. For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.