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Withstanding the Virtual Hurdles with Young Entrepreneurs Academy

There’s a reason why Young Entrepreneurs Academy’s acronym is YEA!

Young Entrepreneurs Academy is one of the newer additions to the CommUniverCity projects. The primary focus for YEA is to engage the youth into learning and developing entrepreneurial skills that are normally practiced in the real world of business.

A few of these topics include marketing, management, operations, and budgeting.

Being made since the spring 2020 semester, or as we remember, the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, YEA has endured various obstacles.  Just like a great business model, however, this project was able to withstand all that was hurled at it.

Until November 2021, everything related to YEA was done virtually. The original plan for when this project launched was for the youth, who came from various after school programs including Ohlone Middle School, CORAL at McKinley, Think Together at Lowell Elementary School and many others, was for the young students to either visit the SJSU campus or have the SJSU student-engaged learners visit the various schools and educate the youth on the world of business from the comfort of their own classroom.

Of course, on a seemingly normal March afternoon, everything had changed. Every single student in Santa Clara County was removed from the classrooms and moved onto being in front of a computer screen for all of their class time.

To counter this unforeseen situation, YEA and all else who were involved had no choice but to move everything online.

Adapting to the online environment was a great learning experience, in that it gave the student-engaged learners the opportunity to think outside the box and find creative ways to keep their young audience engaged.

To see a glimpse of how the material and activities played out during shelter-in-place, see the Inspiring Young Entrepreneurs blog written in the spring of 2021.

The virtual model of Young Entrepreneurs Academy continued for about a year and a half, that is, until November of 2021 came around.

On November 17, 2021, CommUniverCity hosted YEA’s very first in-person events at Empire Gardens and McKinley Elementary School. To be extra cautious with social distancing, both events on this day took place outdoors.

YEA’s first in-person event, outdoors at McKinley Elem.

Even that within itself was projected to be a challenge. In a technologically advanced world, how on Earth would we be able to get the lessons started?

With the weather not being too hot, nor too cold, but just right, the service learners from faculty lead Pamela Wells’ BUS3 160 class had a good feeling that the event would end up going well after all.

A low technology event ended up being a window of creativity. One service learning group included the use of paper, markers, and imagination. Another group brought the classroom outdoors by whipping out a portable whiteboard and doing their lesson from there.

One site supervisor even commented that although there was little to no technology involved, that the students, both elementary and college, were active and engaged.

YEA on Family Night at McKinley Elementary Cafeteria

Shortly after these two events, YEA had one more in-person event featured during Family Night at McKinley Elementary back in early December 2021.

During Family Night, the youth as well as their families, were able to learn more about business topics. To make the experience more inclusive, a bilingual Spanish speaker was presented for every group presenting a business topic.

At the end of presentations, the  elementary students were asked if they might be interested in going into the business field. Numerous hands flew into the air.

Pamela Wells’ BUS3 160 students during Family Night.

“…that definitely made me feel good that we got our message across to the point of motivating and a deep understanding of finance and financial management,” said one SJSU service learner.

It may seem like Young Entrepreneurs Academy is a project that the community mostly benefits from, but as it turns out, by participating with the community and educating them in their field of study, almost 60% of BUS3 160 students expressed an incline in the need to complete their degree program.

“This project motivated me to complete my degree program because it helped me to understand that there is a whole new generation of thinkers and entrepreneurs. As a business major, I know that it’s so important and beneficial to provide this type of material at an early age and this project makes me realize that there is a bigger picture and that there’s more to my existence than my own success. Empowering others and helping others be successful too is true success.” 

YEA Student-engaged learner
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