Koch Youth Entrepreneurs Program Expands

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The Youth Entrepreneurship, or YE, program, created in 1991 by Charles Koch and his wife, Liz, had a single goal: improve the professional development of at-risk students in a Kansas high school by teaching them about entrepreneurship. Today, 27 years later, it has expanded to include both middle and high school students in 92 schools in nine states. Over time the curriculum has evolved to include important life skills, economic principles, and real-life applications.

Small businesses are vital to the health of our communities, yet few of us learn about the economic principles or develop the operational skills to start and run a business. Through this program, students develop product ideas and business plans that they can pitch to a panel of volunteer experts at The Big Idea events. Or they can run up a pop-up business during Market Day events to sell their products.

For those students who want to pursue their dream of running their own businesses, there is the Youth Entrepreneurship Academy. This program gives students opportunities to work as interns, take tours of businesses and network with other students. While these experiences may not lead directly to business ownership, they can be life-changing as noted by Bob and Kristi Tempel: “YE has given our son Tanner the confidence to speak and network with people three times his age.  It has given him a springboard into many incredible opportunities. This program is going to change young people’s lives in such a positive way.”

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