Entrepreneurship Education at the secondary level – Taking a closer look

The headline read “2 distinct schools, 2 Emmys – Though they’re worlds apart, Chicago Vocational and Highland Park shares honors.” Imagine, front page news of the May 1st Chicago Tribune. The Chicago area schools brought home two of seven student Emmys. I’ve been on “a mission” scanning the Chicago Tribune for articles featuring the practice of entrepreneurship education. My criteria when selecting a particular article:

  • features an activity or event taking place within a school or classroom setting;
  • the teaching method(s) are either experiential or problem-based;
  • there is a connect with the community at large, i.e. small business owners, entrepreneurs or activitists;
  • the activity/event reflects the components of an integrative curriculum;
  • the articles easily translates into a project/unit for entrepreneurship education;
  • implicit within the feature article, core concepts which facilitate entrepreneurial thinking

The articles clearly demonstrate entrepreneurial thinking and experiential and/or problem based learning in action. The “case study” approach is one technique, among many, to advance entrepreneurship education.

Returning to the front page of the Trib – Let’s take a closer look at the students from Chicago Vocational Career Academy. Fourteen students with the support of a crew of professional filmmakers worked six weeks to create the 17 minute film. The Last Stain was edited and written by Tracey Preacely a senior who plans to attend Columbia College in the fall.

The film gives a riveting account of two main characters who grapple with moral quandaries as they both sink into a life of crime. The young film makers provide a glimpse into the world that surrounds them. Preacely describes her world in these words, “This is what I come from, this is what I grew up with. People deal drugs. People rob people. But I wanted to make the characters more interesting. I wanted to showthat you have to lose somebody to gain some knowledge.”

According to the article The Last Stain received high ratings in every category–content, creativity, storytelling and execution. There is not one curse word or act of violence in the film. As part of the their summer work project with the city, the students worked with a group of professional filmmakers who worked closely supervising them with selecting sites for scenes, recruiting professional actors, producing the music score and editing the film.

These young filmmakers leave this project with a strong sense of accomplishment knowing that they produced a high quality film. They fine tuned their skills in math, communication, technology, geography and digital production. With mentoring and support the students learned risk management, determination and team work.  One of the students after completing this project decided that he would like to launch his own production studio. The potential, the talent, the creativity that can be harnessed to increase value in neighborhoods, communities and in the lives of our children.

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The Youth Entrepreneurship Conference

What an event – The Youth Entrepreneurship Conference hosted by the IL Institute for Entrepreneurship Education, May 3 through 5 in Lincolnshire IL. More than 400 high school students participated in biz plan competitions, market place expo, breakout sessions and networking. From a quick look at their evaluations Saturday afternoon, the young entrepreneurs rated the conference “high five.”

The conference showcased youth entrepreneurship education as applied classroom practice with a real world focus. I was encouraged by the number of teachers who came to learn more about entrepreneurship education. Conversations were engaging, connections were made giving schools and programs the opportunity to take entrepreneurship education to the next level. YEE, an emerging field wrought by exploration, reflection, discovery, risk, successes and failures.

Some of the highlights from the conference – the more than 40 young entrepreneurs participating in the business plan and jump-start competitions. They looked very professional dressed in their business attire, their handshake firm, spoke clearly and maintained good eye contact. They pitched their business plan with confidence within a time frame of five minutes followed with questions from the judges. They responded with enthusiasm and confidence. Those who place received cash prizes.

Another highlight … the Market Place EXPO featuring 35 youth businesses representing retail, service, manufacturing, technology, publishing, music and entertainment. This event drew the crowds, all conference goers attended the EXPO. Ample time to meet the young entrepreneurs and to hear their stories.  To browse, network, sample products and purchase goods.  The expo room was filled with good energy.