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Empowering youth: High school entrepreneurs

Posted by Chad O'Connor  October 25, 2012 11:00 AM

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During a crucial time in America when we urgently need innovative contributors to our economy, we fail to utilize one of our most valuable demographic groups: high school students.

My name is Ingrid Li, a Senior at Winchester High School, and Founder and Chair of the Entrepreneurial Youth Society (EYS). I founded EYS during my sophomore year to engage entrepreneurship among high school students and create jobs for future America.

High school students are creative and capable individuals whose abilities need to be amplified by our communities and challenged as entrepreneurs.

Photo courtesy of EYS
Young entrepreneurs at the State House
While we experience the challenges of an entrepreneur, we also need to gain the confidence to assert our ideas in the professional community—to put our ideas and skills into real practice.

And to accomplish this idea, EYS created ‘EYS Winchester Model’, which is a town-based model that connects every individual community’s businesses and leaders with their local high school students for internships, mentorships, and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Successfully implemented in my hometown of Winchester and supported by countless communities across Massachusetts, this model has generated hundreds of students in businesses, projects, and internships. We are also supported by national leaders like Senator John Kerry, Senator Scott Brown, Congressman Markey, Governor Deval Patrick, and Treasurer Grossman, because our model can accomplish results.

But why does this model work so well?

Through the perspective of a high school student, we have the passion and creativity, but we want support from our professional community to embrace ourselves as professionals as well.

We look for mentors to guide us, employers to give us responsibility, and—most desirably—professionals who view us as equals and can work with us on an equal base. We have the same ability and potential as any other individual in the professional world; all we need is the platform.

Just remember that you as a professional—whether you are a college student with a startup or a well-experienced CEO—can truly make a difference as a mentor or connector for high school students and directly take part in producing entrepreneurs for the next generation at a much quicker pace than you think!

And there are great ways to help:
1. Taking your time to mentor and guide a student: At EYS, we are creating networking events geared towards high school students—attending to speak with students, evaluate their ideas, and introduce them to further resources makes a huge difference in a young individual.

2. Using your resources to promote our hard work: We—as students—have a lot to say and show off. Whether you are in media, art, science, or any other field of occupation, choosing a handful of students to help advertise (maybe inviting them to speak in front of a group, or to an exclusive networking event, or putting their idea on your website) is a significant impact.

3. Giving Space and Funding: As high school students, we’re short on cash and space. I know brilliant students with amazing ideas who are stopped simply by the lack of funding and work space.

4. Offer more high school internships and collaborations: And this especially goes to the college grads and attendees. If you’ve got a cool start-up, why not have high school students take part in it? And not the desk job either. Or even form a partnership with high school-run businesses.

And what are we doing that you could help?

1. We are creating an online network that implements the EYS Winchester Model, in which every town will have its own individual network where students and business leaders can create accounts and connect with each other for opportunities. We plan to have a tour in 2013 to over 50 towns to launch this network—if you want to help start this in your town, please contact us!

2. We are also launching MASS Movement, an alliance of high school innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs who want to bring their ideas and projects onto a professional level. In order to create a culture for high school professionals, we will be holding networking parties, competitions, and other programs for teenagers. Like all the things that I listed before, by giving us resources, funding, space, and other opportunities, MASS Movement will utilize that into a really cool opportunity for high school students.

We look forward to seeing more people get involved in this growing movement of the young entrepreneurial mentality.

Ingrid Li is a Winchester High School senior and founder of the Entrepreneurial Youth Society. She can be reached at ingridli@comcast.net.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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