The Young Entrepreneurs Project (YEP) is an inclusive career-readiness program that partners with Boston Public Schools and Boston Boys and Girls Clubs. One of PYD’s longest standing programs, YEP engages students with and without disabilities together in academic and experiential learning to prepare them for future employment and education opportunities.
YEP and Henry Dearborn Middle School in Roxbury, MA have collaborated for over a decade, with YEP teachers pairing with school teachers for weekly implementation of the YEP curriculum. This year, 27 seventh graders participate in YEP’s three-tiered curriculum of academic learning, real-world experiences and mentoring in inclusive classrooms.
Approximately 25% of Dearborn YEP participants have identified disabilities. Program Associate Aileen Quintero adapts the YEP lessons to appeal to different learning styles, offers accommodations and modifications, and incorporates culturally relevant materials. Such efforts make certain the material is accessible to all students and increases engagement.
Students at Dearborn face many challenges in their daily lives. From disabilities to socio-economic barriers to language challenges, Dearborn youth have overcome many battles. “Inner city youth may have limited access to routes and resources for their daily and future success,” shares Aileen. “YEP is that resource.” YEP broadens students’ horizons through entrepreneurship, career-readiness, and financial literacy training.
To this end, Dearborn YEP participants design and set up a student-run school store. Participants dedicate their lunch time to sales, inventory and the store operations each day. “This project affords our students the opportunity to get hands-on business and leadership experience,” says Aileen. “Giving students responsibility for store management teaches them many life long lessons from customer service to finance.”
In addition to these life skills, YEP also supplements students’ current course work and strengthens core competencies in English and Math. “Many of our students come from different backgrounds and may struggle with language,” notes Aileen. “With assignments like making announcements over the PA system, we emphasize speaking confidently and professionally.” YEP participants respond to these efforts, demonstrating improvement in homework, attendance and behavior.
For entrepreneurial mentoring, YEP brings local business leaders to the school for guest lectures. These volunteers highlight their successes and failures and teach students how to learn from their mistakes. Guest lectures also underscore the connections between YEP’s activities and real world success.
At the completion of the course, participants must decide what to do with profits from their school store. Typically, participants elect to donate half their income to local charities. However, the accomplishments of YEP students can never be monetized; the program’s true value is the engagement and empowerment of typically underserved and disenfranchised youth.