(Photo by Flickr user YU-JEN SHIH, used under a Creative Commons license)
The University of Delaware Horn Program in Entrepreneurship offers a number of ways to engage with youth as a part of our Paul & Linda McConnell Youth Initiative. The programs that we’ve developed, including the Diamond Challenge business concept competition and the Youth Entrepreneurship Summit, aim to inspire and empower young people to be the creators of their futures.
Working with high school students both locally and internationally gives our team a unique perspective on how teens from around the globe encounter entrepreneurship. For example, students in Delaware may have already taken some business classes and may have parents or neighbors who are small business owners or entrepreneurs. They also see plenty of news coverage on the “unicorns” whose founders have often reached unprecedented success by their early 20s. They see entrepreneurship around them and have some frame of reference.
These students are all facing very different situations and futures, but something they have in common is their access to cutting-edge entrepreneurship education.
Students in our former-Soviet partner country, Moldova, on the other hand, have grown up with parents who were never given an opportunity to lead or make major decisions in their lives, and so they have very little concept of how to teach their children to create a life and career around their interests and passions.
Diamond Challenge participants in Kenya are yet another story.
When they are dreaming up their concepts for the business concept competition, 9 out of 10 submissions are social ventures, because the problems they face daily are quite different than those of students here in Delaware. They are trying to create solutions to clean water access, food sustainability and new ways to create energy to light up their villages after sunset.
Yes, these students are all facing very different situations and futures, but something they have in common is their access to cutting-edge entrepreneurship education, the choice to integrate these ways of thinking into their lives, and the opportunity to grasp an empowerment that will help them in creating the future they want to live.
Here are just a few ways the Horn Program is working to provide this educational and experiential access to high school students:
In 2012, the Horn Program created an abbreviated version of our approach to evidence-based entrepreneurship education in the form of a series of online curriculum videos for the Diamond Challenge business concept competition for high school students. These videos cover the process that we call “building a business like a scientist,” or taking “ideas to action.”
In addition to the curriculum, Diamond Challenge participants move on to writing a persuasive paper about their original concept and then pitching the idea to a panel of judges. The experience of both pulling together a large amount of information in a compelling way, and presenting it in both written and oral format, is a great way to show students how to express themselves and build their confidence. This experience alone is also valuable in helping students better understanding their own strengths when working in teams.
Throughout all of our programming, the Horn Program prioritizes having qualified, passionate and available professionals on-hand to provide students with feedback, ideas and mentorship. The old adage “it’s all in who you know” is important to us all, but especially to young minds as they form their ideas about the possibilities in our world.