English, math, science, humanities, and now entrepreneurship. Two Venture for America (VfA) fellows, Mike Mayer and Billy Schrero, are taking eighth grade education to the next level by teaching entrepreneurship through the VfA youth initiative Startup Effect. It’s a hands-on, action-based, experiential learning program that engages the students and provides them with valuable tools for the future.
The idea for Startup Effect originated at a Venture for America training camp, which Mayer and Schrero attended in preparation for their upcoming startup adventures in New Orleans.
Schrero previously taught through his undergraduate career at Tulane. Mayer had no prior teaching experience, just a good amount of business and startup experience through Venture for America. He said, “After the first class it was a shock. Once you realize what it looks and feels like [to teach] you can adapt pretty quickly.”
The program is in its infancy; the initial trial will run for ten weeks at KIPP: Central City. Students get a better understanding of commitment by signing contracts after acceptance into the program. They gain real world, business experience, understand why the skills taught are important and how they add value to their futures.
Students will work with each of the challenge partner companies for two weeks each. The partner companies are LinkedIn (which provided funding for Startup Effect), Mardi Brah, Education Everytime, and Blue Runner Foods. Each presents a pain point to the students and the students compete against each other to solve the problem the company is having.
Startup Effect targets four core areas: networking and communications, creative process, execution and prototyping, and marketing. Students get two weeks with each company. The first week is practice for students in which they learn the skills and then are introduced to the challenge and the second week brings in the challenge partner company.
In school, Schrero says, “You learn how to learn, but at some point you have to learn skills.” He and Mayer want students to realize they can add value right now; there’s no need to wait until the students are older to solve problems in the community.
Blue Runner Foods is currently partnered with Startup Effect for a marketing challenge. The company walked the students through various marketing materials and broke down the social media tools the students will use for the challenge. Tomorrow, April 26th, is the action phase. Students will take over the Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and a have reign over a commercial shooting station to share their experiences working with Blue Runner.
Startup Effect also runs in Detroit. The next program will expand to Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. The program’s goal is to think ahead by building a network of peer and business connections for the students, potentially setting them up with internships or jobs down the road. To find out more visit startupeffect.org.
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