Youth entrepreneurship class coming to GJ

Student entrepreneurs can pursue their business aspirations starting this fall in a 30-week entrepreneurship program called the Young Entrepreneurs Academy.

The academy program was created nine years ago at the University of Rochester in New York and is used in more than 90 communities nationwide. Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Diane Schwenke heard about the program from the Castle Rock Colorado Chamber of Commerce, which is the only Colorado chamber currently overseeing a YEA program, and decided to give it a try here.

The Grand Junction chamber will partner with Western Colorado Community College and School District 51 to launch the class this fall at the community college. Students, mainly from local middle and high schools, will spend every Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. for 30 weeks between October and May learning how to start and run a business. It has not been determined whether the class will count for District 51 credit, Schwenke said.

Students are expected to turn a business idea into a fully-functioning start-up by the end of the program. Three instructors, who have yet to be picked, will teach 10 weeks each of the course and the chamber is searching for volunteers to mentor students, provide advice on insurance and legal matters, guide field trips, and sit on an investor panel during an exercise where students will present their business ideas in return for possible investments in their companies. One student will be picked to compete for scholarship money next spring at a YEA gathering in New York and students will be able to sell their products and promote their businesses next spring at a local trade show.

The program is limited to 24 students. Applications are available at gjchamber.org. Applicants must fill out an application, write an essay, submit a letter of recommendation and provide a student transcript in order to be considered for the program.

Those who are picked for the program will have to pay a tuition of $295, which will cover the class, materials and books. Scholarships to pay part of the tuition fee will be offered to low-income students, but scholarships will not cover the entire cost of the class.

“Part of starting a business is having skin in the game,” Schwenke said.

Half of all students who have graduated from academy programs were still running their business a year later, according to the YEA website. Schwenke said she’s looking forward to seeing what ideas local students have for businesses.

“We won’t necessarily be looking for GPA” when selecting students, she said. “What we’re looking for is students who are passionate about something.”


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