I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Youth Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy, and youth job readiness training.

Why you ask?  They have become a major part of my job.  For the past year I’ve been working on a new program at my middle school.  The short version of the story is that many of our students are constantly needing to raise money  for field trips, athletic fees, and other school-related fees.  We are a pretty mixed income school with a few homeless/highly-mobile youth and a few who are pretty wealthy.  And a bunch that are working and/or middle class.

In 2007 an involved community member/former parent had an idea of students earning money by doing work around the community. When I came to the school in 2008 I was tasked to get the program up and running. The foundation of the program is connecting our students with local residents who need work done around their house.  Yes, there are lots of issues surrounding this idea, but so far it is working! Students shovel, rake, weed, mow, etc for a donation of $5 an hour.  Even if the students don’t completly love the idea of working, their parents do!!

We think it offers a chance for the students to learn some valuable skills and experiences, while also meeting needs in the community. A lot of our customers are elderly residents who like the idea of supporting a local school.  As you can imagine this takes a lot of work – connecting customers and students and on a really busy day I feel more like a dispatcher than anything else!  I enjoy talking with the customers (except the crabby ones) and especially getting to talk with the kids.  Because of the intense amount of time and pressure for this aspect we’ve decided to branch out and create something a little more sustainable.

Thus, entrepreneurship.  The idea is that student create their own small businesses that can help fund their education.  It can be targetted towards other students or the broader community.  We are still in the beginning stages of exploring this opportunity.  During the last year I also realized that many of the students I work with aren’t financially literate.  Few of them have bank accounts or have an understanding of the simplest financial practices.  As a result we are going to start covering some of the basics.

This is a somewhat random post, but I missed church this weekend due to a fundraising dinner for the program I described above.  See, it all connects together!