Seven innovative and motivated students from Columbia Heights and St. Anthony High Schools spent part of their summer break learning instead of lounging. The students participated in JA Entrepreneurial Mindset, a one-semester teacher-led course that introduces high school students to the basics of starting a business.
Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest is the first office to pilot this program nationally. We welcomed the opportunity to host this program in our new JA Innovation Incubator, a business lab where high school students can utilize technology and resources to innovate and incubate companies.
Over the four weeks, students learned how to identify a business opportunity, create a business plan, and develop an entrepreneurial mindset. They were inspired by several local entrepreneurs, including Jim Hemak, JA alumni and namesake of our new experiential learning center. They also toured local businesses started by entrepreneurs, including Keg & Case Market in St. Paul. “My favorite part of the class was the field trip,” said Jon. “I learned new things and ate good food.”
Students teamed up to create an innovative product, prepare business and marketing plans, and explore R&D. They developed product prototypes using a 3D printer in the JA Innovation Incubator. The incubator also offered them access to interactive whiteboards, focus rooms, and an environment conducive to innovative thinking. “The kids felt really special having their own workspace,” said Beth Tomscak, JA Entrepreneurship Pathway Director.
On the final day of the program, the students presented their business plan and prototypes to a small audience of JA and school staff. You could see their pride as they described their products – a solar powered cell phone case and an air purifier.
Sacrificing a few weeks of summer paid off for these students. They received one credit for their participation, which gives them enough school credits to take advantage of internship opportunities their senior year. They also cultivated their personal interest in entrepreneurship through unique, hands-on learning experiences. “I enjoyed learning new things about entrepreneurship,” said Sarah. “JA made learning fun!”