Five years ago, Junior Ramirez’s prospects seemed pretty limited. His parents divorced when he was in middle school and his future felt as unsettled as his home life. College wasn’t even on his radar screen. But all that changed when he signed up for a Youth Entrepreneurs class during his senior year of high school.
YE introduced Ramirez to caring mentors who helped him gain confidence and pursue his passions. Today, he is a college senior on a clear path to getting his master’s degree in accounting. YE helped Ramirez see something inside himself that even he didn’t know was there.
This is really what it’s all about, isn’t it — having a fulfilling life? That’s exactly where Youth Entrepreneurs can help. It gives young people – especially those who live in communities with fewer resources and less financial means – a path to opportunity and fulfillment they never knew existed.
Since YE was founded in 1991, its goal has been to help high school students find fulfillment through hands-on learning in which they create and evolve their own business ideas.
True, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur or serve as a CEO. That’s why YE’s focus is not just on teaching entrepreneurship. YE instills ethical values in all transactions and relationships. It inspires students to take ownership of every aspect of their lives and succeed the right way.
YE is more than just classroom learning. It offers a unique depth of experience that blends mentoring programs, scholarships and summer partnerships with local businesses. Students get real-life, hands-on experiences. They also have access to venture capital. This is not a “one and done” program. This is about learning life-long lessons.
Unlike our popular culture, YE mentors teach students about the importance of failure. That’s right, failure. Kids need to understand that not everyone hits it out of the ballpark the first time at bat. Failures provide important lessons and essential guidance. They also teach us the importance of perseverance to reach our goals.
Results of this approach speak for themselves. Since its start as an eight-week experimental course in a Wichita, Kansas high school, the program has more than 15,000 alumni. YE’s results in Georgia, in particular, have been inspiring; in its inaugural class, 91 percent of program participants graduated from high school, compared with 51 percent from metro Atlanta schools. Eighty percent of those YE students went on to post-secondary education.
This fall, in addition to new programs in Arizona and Oklahoma, YE is launching in eight high schools serving the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. They are: the Crowley Independent School District’s Bill R. Johnson Career and Technology Education Center; Arlington ISD’s The Class in the Parks; Fort Worth ISD’s Trimble Technical High School; Dallas ISD’s Skyline High School; Responsive Ed Premier Lewisville; Responsive Ed Premier Irving South; Responsive Ed Premier Fort Worth; and Responsive Ed Premier Granbury. Through our expansion, we hope to further enable Texas’ most disadvantaged kids to succeed and lead fulfilling lives.
When young people come into the classroom, most have no idea what they want from life or how they’re going to get to where they need to be. Our job is to excite them about good economic thinking and find a way to take their innate talents and develop them into a lifelong asset.
At YE, we believe that every student has some capability. Our job is to help them find it and ignite a passion that opens doors to economic prosperity for themselves, their communities and society as a whole. In Texas, and across the nation, we want to give these kids the opportunity to reach their potential.
Liz Koch is the founder and chairwoman of Youth Entrepreneurs.