Since its inception in 2012, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneur Academy (YEA) has helped dozens of students foster their entrepreneurial spirit while creating a culture of innovation throughout the borough’s high schools.
And the innovative ideas developed in this educational program have been pretty impressive too.
“We’ve had a couple of national winners in our group and a range of original and extremely inventive ideas,” explained Chamber president Linda Baran, detailing a fingerprint scanner, hockey glove deodorizer, foolproof bakery piping bag and some edible vegan spoons that have garnered national attention for the Staten Island chapter of this group which serves thousands of students in 168 communities across America.
“But the best part of this entire program is that beyond high school these students are still dabbling,” Baran continued. “They move onto college and have this skill set that is tremendously helpful in whatever career path they ultimately choose.”
Fueled by the mission statement “Don’t Just Take A Job – Make A Job,” YEA guides students through the process of fulfilling their very own American dream. By bridging the business and educational communities, students are taught by trained instructors and are exposed to guest lecturers, successful entrepreneurs and mentors.
Over the course of the program, students brainstorm business ideas, write a business plan, interact with business professionals and attend field trips for a behind-the-scenes look at local businesses.
Participants then pitch their business plan to local investors for startup funding and the opportunity to advance to regional and national competitions. Their businesses are then legally registered before they participate in a local YEA Trade Show and launch and run their own business or social movement.
“The program truly spurs interest in entrepreneurship in young people,” Baran noted. “These students have great ideas but don’t’ know where to take them so this serves as a stepping stone, giving them the confidence and skills they need and exposing them to range of different community business leaders.”
More than 75 different mentors help instruct students both in the classroom and during field trips. Classes, which run for over 20 weeks from October through May, meet every Thursday afternoon from 3:30 to 6:30pm at Staten Island Technical High School.
“I think a lot of young people don’t know what they want to do so this gives them a bird’s eye view into a range of different businesses,” Baran said.
Staten Island High School students in grades 9 through 12 from public, Catholic or private schools may apply for acceptance by completing an application, which includes an essay and short-answer questions, school transcripts and letter of recommendation.
Once the completed application is received, students may be invited to attend an in-person interview. Acceptance into the program is based on all aspects of the completed application as well as the personal interview. Prior business experience is not required, nor is it required to have a business idea prior to the start of class.
“It’s a great addition to your resume when you’re applying for college,” Baran concluded. “It shows commitment and experience and lets future employers know how serious and qualified the student is.”
Deadline for YEA application is September 15. Visit sichamber.com/promo/yea to download the form.