May 19, 2015

Final exams can be overwhelming for any student, especially the chief executive officer of a company with 120 workers.

But the hard work is paying off for Hercules High senior Joseph Fortuna and fellow classmates who operate Herban Movement, a student-run company that designs and sells educational products such as a cookbook and environmentally-friendly bag.

On Monday, the award-winning project from Hercules High’s Academy of Hospitality and International Tourism (AHIT) announced it has been selected to represent Northern California at the 2015 Junior Achievement National Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.

The June summit will send Fortuno and fellow seniors Mahal Williams (public relations), Tiffany Gonzales, (human resources), Gabby Stone (human resources) and Andrew Dirk  (finance) to compete against other Junior Achievement companies from around the U.S.

The company was invited to apply for the national competition after earning “Best Business Plan” and “Best Commercial” (see commercial below) at the 2015 Junior Achievement of Northern California Company of the Year Competition in Mountain View.

Herban Movement was created last year as a way to provide 120 sophomores, juniors and seniors in the AHIT program a real-world project that can prepare them for future careers. With help from an advisory board of local industry and business professionals, students held elections for company officers, came up with mission, values and vision statements and a complete business plan (see a draft of the Business Report here), said Chef Lourdes Sampayo, the academy’s lead instructor.

“I really wanted to give them all a cross-curricular, cross-grade, multicultural project that would help them gain valuable business acumen and skill,” Chef Sampayo said.

Herban Movement not only offers real products, but real profits. It recently announced it has sold out of Project Gaia (see photo below), its product line of environmentally-friendly multipurpose bags that was created in reaction to legislation outlawing single-use plastic bags. The students don’t get to pocket their earnings: 40-percent of all profits are donated to charities of their choice such as Free the Children and the California Autism Foundation.

herban.5-18-4The second product, the cookbook called Herban Dishes (see photo below), is also designed entirely by students and its first edition is already sold out. Each student in the academy’s culinary class is assigned a unique spice to research and must produce a paper detailing the spices’ medicinal use, geographical information, history, folklore and a recipe containing the spice. These are then published in the cookbook, which is due for release this summer.

herban.5-18During the process of producing Herban Movement products, students had help from multiple industry professionals. Partners include the West Contra Costa Unified School District, California Partnership Academies, Regional Occupational Programs, Linked Learning and The Ed Fund. Several local chefs and representatives from the Richmond Convention and Visitor’s Bureau were also credited for helping the student project become a success.

“Our printing partner, Chimes Printing in Richmond, has been very supportive and helped walk us through the intricacies of printing a product,” Chef Sampayo said. “Putting together the rough and final drafts for the cookbook, using the correct industry formats, was in and of itself a valuable learning experience for the students.”

Meanwhile, accolades for Herban Movement keep streaming in. Last week, the school district and Linked Learning recognized AHIT with the 2015 Team Award for Distinction in Work-Based Learning (see photo below). Fortuno, Williams and Winston also received individual awards.

award.5-18But the best reward, students say, is the invaluable experience they are gaining from Herban Movement.

The program has “developed skills one will never learn in a classroom,” said Mahal Williams.

“I am now able to speak in front of large crowds (no matter the audience), network to actual business people, think on my feet, and communicate efficiently,” Mahal said.

Winston said the program taught her multiple lessons including “how to network, how to be a team player, how to take other people’s opinions into consideration, how to take constructive criticism, how to learn from our company’s weaknesses and grow from there.”

“But most importantly to me, I’ve learned how to sell products,” Winston said. “I love the feeling I get when I have made a sale. I love to see how, with just my words, I can get people to believe and be as passionate in our product as I am.”

Watch this video for more information about the Academy of Hospitality and International Tourism at Hercules High:


  1. Nice article, but you failed to mention the name of the graduating president, Alex Walker-Griffin (back, top left). He will not be attending Washington D.C. with the group because prior to winning the award, he was scheduled to go to Europe.

    a walker | May 19th, 2015
  2. anjo | Jun 24th, 2015

About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.