The Value of Entrepreneurship

  • By: Lorraine Salazar, Owner of Sal’s Mexican Restaurant Group

“Entrepreneurship” has become a media buzzword.  Pick up a newspaper and you’ll very likely find at least one story or reference to developing entrepreneurship in young people.

The April Fresno Unified School District’s publication highlights a new magnet high school opening this August “featuring a specialized curriculum focused on building future entrepreneurs.”  The Clovis Independent recently wrote about the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) offered through the Clovis Chamber of Commerce.

A New York Times feature article [March 6, 2015] entitled “The Excitement of Learning From Profit and Loss” really stirred my interest.  It reports that the 500,000 high schoolers who drop out each year typically feel “disengaged and uninspired.”  They don’t see the relevance of school to their future lives.

The Times comments that this represents an opportunity as well as a challenge for both educators and the business community.   Research by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship indicates “81% of dropouts said that they would have stayed in school if the subjects were more relevant to real life.”

The article features an educational program called “BUILD” which provides teams of at-risk students, often from low income families, with opportunity to conceive, build and operate their own small businesses.  BUILD has now expanded to public schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston and Washington DC.

BUILD’s curriculum “ties” common core subjects—literacy, mathematics, public speaking—with the “real world” situation these kids live in.  Students also “pick up important soft skills such as how to dress and act professionally, how to create a meeting agenda” and, “crucially, how to ask for help from adults.”

Schools report 3/4ths of the students who complete the 9th grade course continue with BUILD through high school graduation.  Last year, BUILD reports, 84 percent of those students were admitted to a four-year college.

Two years ago the Fresno Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Class developed  Entrepreneurship 29, a 10 week curriculum, with mentors from the business community engaging with students each week to get kids excited about the possibilities of starting their own businesses.  Fresno County Office of Education Superintendent Jim Yovino praised their efforts for helping “connect the dots between the classroom and potential careers and the success they can obtain if they set their minds to it.”

Entrepreneurship 29 resumes this September.  Chamber business members are welcome and needed to participate in the Business & Education Committee’s monthly meetings the 2nd Wednesday from 7:30 to 9 a.m.  Please come join us to learn more about this exciting opportunity.

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