Entrepreneurship program offered at THS | New

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Telluride High School students with an entrepreneurial bent can now learn the tools to start a business. Started last year by Telluride R-1 School Board President Stephanie Hatcher, whose background as a technology lawyer in Silicon Valley during the internet boom and in new businesses / start-ups up and communities, made it perfectly suited to design the program.

Hatcher first contacted the Johnson Family Foundation and connected with CEO Dylan Hoos. Together, they worked to fund the curriculum and the teaching position by securing two grants over two years totaling $ 40,000. Three years ago, Hatcher, Hoos and former superintendent Mike Gass met for the first of dozens of meetings to create the program.

“The three of us have researched and met with people from all over the country who oversee or support youth entrepreneurship programs,” Hoos said. “We have chosen various elements of these programs and adapted them to create a unique program specific to the Telluride community. “

Hatcher describes their unique version of the program as “social entrepreneurship”.

“This approach to innovation reflects the strong and unique community culture of Telluride,” she said. “Children are naturally drawn to the good, too. And that their ideas benefit our community, that’s just cool.

Now in its third semester, the class includes classes, community organization, and outreach that connects mentors and businesses to students who then develop entrepreneurial skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, research, adaptability and innovation to solve real local and global problems.

“Building that mindset from an early age is important because jobs and the economy change,” Hatcher said. “When these students enter the workforce, they will be working in jobs that don’t yet exist. The program is based on a design model, which has been proven to bridge achievement gaps and break limiting mindsets. It instills persistence, and research shows these qualities go beyond the classroom. “

This year, “Introduction to Entrepreneurship,” a one-semester elective course, is taught by Kelly Boykin, a high school social studies teacher. While students in Grades 9-12 are eligible to take the course, most students enrolled this year are in Grades 11 and 12. Meeting four days a week, students focus on a problem in the community that they can solve and proceed through a design-based program to try to identify a project that they could start that could benefit the community. local community.

Students are offered an option for independent study where connections with mentors are made. Hatcher volunteered to teach the class last spring, working with Bonnie Watson, Executive Director of Telluride Venture Network (TVN), matching students with mentors.

“TVN’s role in this program is to provide valuable and comprehensive mentors – ideally former entrepreneurs – to help students verify the viability of their business idea and identify the right ways to take that idea forward,” Watson explained. “Our mentors are there to provide foundational business mentorship in the areas of product validation, market fit, and supply and demand.”

One project that sprung up last spring was a subscription composting program that operated out of Norwood and involved a student thinking about the logistics of depositing and picking up compost for regional customers. Another project developed a recurring donation model for the fire department that emerged from research in which a student discovered that the ADE program is not continuously funded for defibrillators.

Hatcher notes that while there is a “synergy” between the new entrepreneurship class and the long-standing high school mentorship program where students work at an established local business, the class is different.

“In this program, students identify a problem in their community or something that they are passionate about and find a solution by looking at what already exists, then try to create an innovation that fixes it,” Hatcher explained. “These are really students who come up with the business solution. “

Hoos says the goal of the class is to educate and motivate the next generation of impact-driven entrepreneurial leaders who reflect Telluride’s unique community and contribute solutions to local and international issues.

“What is more important than teaching students critical thinking, collaboration, problem-solving skills and creativity? ” he said. “This class doesn’t teach students for a test; rather, it teaches life skills that will be immediately applicable in college, or in the job market, or in starting their own non-profit organization or business.

Originally, Boykin said, the district was only going to offer one semester of introductory entrepreneurship classes this year. While last year there were around 50 students enrolled in the class over two semesters, this year there are over 60 students enrolled over two semesters, allowing Boykin to expose more children to the class.

“This program is a great representation of the Telluride community,” Hoos said. “I hope other people will see what we are seeing and help support this program as donors and mentors so that it can be an integral part of the local school curriculum.”


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