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North Philly’s U School is encouraging the next generation of sustainable entrepreneurs

The high school won a grant from 1Philadelphia in the fall to support its Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Sustainable Side Hustle program.

U School's Samuel Reed (center) at 1Philadelphia Innovation Weekend. (Photo courtesy of the School District of Philadelphia)

A North Philadelphia high school is highlighting the importance of sustainability and entrepreneurship to prepare students for resilient futures.

At the project-based U School, the Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (AFNR) Sustainable Side Hustle program is the result of teacher Samuel Reed’s Sustainable Side Hustle program partnering with the U School’s urban agriculture initiative. Reed, a founding educator at the U School and “teacherpreneur,” told Technical.ly the AFNR Sustainable Side Hustle program was first piloted during the summer of 2021 as a way for students to learn to take what they grow in the school’s urban garden and turn it into products they can sell.

Anna Herman, AFNR Career and Technical Education educator at the U School, said students work with mentors in an after-school program to go through the full process of making and selling a product, including raising money for materials, testing their ideas, conducting focus groups, packaging their product and marketing it to be sold. After completing the program, some students won a grant to continue their side hustle business and host a showcase for their work this spring.

According to Reed and Herman, this program focuses on developing “leadership skills and an entrepreneurial mindset” to help student figure out their passions and what they want to pursue after graduating.

“We want students to make connections between the the skills of entrepreneurship and the responsibilities as citizens of a world in crisis to marry sustainability, environmental stewardship and real world opportunities,” Herman said.

The U School received a $10,000 innovation award granted during 1Philadelphia’s Innovation Weekend in November which will fund student side hustles, as well as a new Side Hustle Green Tech app. Details are scant now, the goal is to produce an app that will facilitate the use of technology for students learning through the school’s entrepreneurship program. U School will partner with a developer who will collaborate with students in the app’s design.

“The goal for developing the app is to provide youth real world opportunities to apply knowledge and fulfill their greatest potential. Most of the youth in our program don’t have access to creative and technological resources,” Reed said. “We hope our program strives to change that narrative, and allow students to thrive and contribute to the development of their own communities. Our program supports young people’s leadership potential and motivates students to recognize and leverage the many assets in our communities.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: School District of Philadelphia

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