This High School Is Helping Kids Become Business Owners

By Alexis Huicochea The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Already in place in several states across the country, the Youth Entrepreneurs program is being implemented in more than a dozen schools across Arizona. The program goes beyond discussions about business models and theories to emphasize the application of ideas, economic thinking and creative risk-taking.

The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

Asley Castro can picture herself as the owner of a pastry bakery, but that place has always seemed a long way away for the Alta Vista High School senior.

She figured she would have to wait until she goes to college before she would have the chance to learn what it really takes to run a business, but a new program at her south-side school has jump-started that process.

The Youth Entrepreneurs program will give nearly three dozen Alta Vista High School seniors like Asley the opportunity to develop business plans, market their products to classmates and meet with local business owners who will share insights and serve as mentors.

Already in place in several states across the country, the Youth Entrepreneurs program is being implemented at Alta Vista and 16 other schools across Arizona that are run by charter school operator Leona Group.

The free program seeks to remove barriers to opportunities for students in high-need areas by going beyond discussions about business models and theories and emphasizing the application of ideas, economic thinking, creative risk-taking, and instilling a sense of independence and personal responsibility.

"We've seen students develop plans for everything from restaurants to phone apps to photography studios," said Greg Kegley, West Valley area manager of Youth Entrepreneurs. "Some, as young as 16 years old, even start their own businesses. The process transforms students' perceptions of what their futures might hold."

That is especially important at Alta Vista, an alternative school at 5040 S. Campbell Ave. serving 475 students, many of whom have not been successful in traditional public school settings.

"We strongly believe in exposing our students to all of the options and pushing them towards what it takes to get to a trade, a college, a university, or the military," said Alta Vista Principal Alicia Alvarez. "When you push kids, they start believing they can, and that's important to us."

Even if students don't end up pursuing business, the guiding principles of the Youth Entrepreneurs program -- integrity, knowledge, humility, respect and responsibility -- will serve students and their future employers well, Alvarez said.

"There is such a need to prepare students for the world after high school and to be able to give students the opportunity to learn that they can take a goal that they have and bring that to fruition," she said.

That is exactly what Alta Vista seniors Gustavo Lopez and Ilianna Sanchez were looking for when they signed up for Youth Entrepreneurs, the pair said.

"I don't really have an idea of where I'm going to go in life right now, but I feel like this opportunity is going to open doors for me," Lopez said. "I know I want to have a good life, and I want to be prepared for the future."

Sanchez has her mind set on a career as a counselor, but she does not want to limit herself.

"This is a good opportunity to explore my options, and I'm happy we have this program at my school," she said.

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