New ‘Junior Entrepreneurs’ Sets Stage

New ‘Junior Entrepreneurs’ Sets Stage for High School INCubatoredu Experience
Posted on 03/28/2022
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students at a tableA case that charges your phone. An inflatable camping tent. Skate shoes controlled by your phone. An automated pet feeder. All ideas that were born from Lakota’s first-ever attempt at “Junior Entrepreneurs,” the stepping stone for the year-long INCubatoredu high school elective for budding entrepreneurs.

Students from all four Lakota junior schools took to the stage last month to share just where their creativity took them when asked to simply solve a problem in their daily lives. One after the other, in 60 to 90 seconds flat, each group presented to a live audience their final sales pitch - the culmination of a multi-week process through which they learned workforce readiness skills like problem solving, critical thinking and presentation skills. 

“I hope you all continue to be curious and ask questions even if you’re the only one asking,” encouraged Justin Frost, Lakota’s assistant director of 7-12 instruction who facilitated the inaugural program, including the final pitch night at Lakota East. The goal, he said, was to introduce to students earlier the fourth “E” in Lakota’s formula for post-graduation options, which also includes enrollment, employment and enlistment. 

The process also naturally lent itself to developing the skills outlined in Lakota’s Portrait of Graduate - all valuable skills regardless of one’s career choice. 

Hopewell, Liberty, Plains and Ridge were given the freedom to deliver the experience in a number of different formats, including an after-school club, an extension of a current elective or even via their daily advisory time. Advisors at each school all followed the “Young Entrepreneur Pitch Challenge” curriculum that included a framework of exercises covering five key steps in the entrepreneurial process: problem identification, business opportunity, pitch content and structure, pitch practice, and coaching and filming. 

“I used to be really nervous about public speaking, but this is making me more comfortable with it,” reflected Plains seventh-grader Amira Scherzinger. “Also, I want to be in politics, so this will help me a lot with that.” 

Liberty Junior eighth-grader Tyler Josleyn, who has experienced Junior Entrepreneurs through his Media Design & Communications class, says it’s like nothing he’s ever experienced in a class before.

“I always look forward to this part of  class,” Josleyn said. “It’s something bigger than just working on a math sheet. You’re actually learning to become somebody who can create your own thing. It really promotes creativity. 

Ultimately, no more than three groups from each school also submitted a video recording of their final pitches for inclusion in the Ohio Afterschool Network’s Pitch Challenge. Regardless of the results of that statewide competition, Frost is looking forward to making this experience available to Lakota seventh- and eighth-graders next year - not yet as an elective, but either an after-school program or an extension of a current class like Media Design & Communication. 

“It’s just an invaluable process,” Frost said. “We want as many students as possible to benefit from it and start developing that entrepreneurial mindset, regardless of what their next step might be.”