Dearborn, MI– Marcedes-Antoniya Preston is a force to be reckoned with. After reading her local community newsletter one Sunday, she volunteered to be on the group’s planning committee. She now attends the monthly board meetings as a Board of Director Intern, writes articles for said newsletter and brings refreshments. She has a full load at school and is hoping to launch her own pajama line in 2014. Marcedes-Antoniya is 11 years old.
Marcedes-Antoniya is just one of 23 outstanding student leaders ages 11 – 18 participating in the Dearborn Area Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) this fall. YEA! is a groundbreaking educational program that takes students in grades six through twelve through the process of starting and running a REAL business. Students work closely with local business leaders to cultivate and research business ideas, write a business plan, pitch their plan to a panel of investors (think Shark Tank meets The Apprentice meets American Idol!), obtain funding, develop their brand, participate in a Trade Show at the end of the year, and actually launch their enterprise.
“To me YEA is a once in a lifetime chance to experience business at a very young age. All of the meetings are fun, educational and professional,” said Preston, a petite firecracker full of ideas and boundless energy. “I hope to win the scholarship and open a very successful business soon.”
In addition to Dearborn, where the program is based at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, other school districts represented are Detroit, St. Clair Shores, Bloomfield Hills and Southfield. Demetrius has a successful $10,000 per month t-shirt business; Aleks hopes to launch a portable green house concept with aquaponics capabilities; Cohen sells recycled golf balls to local courses.
“We are beyond thrilled with the caliber of students who have applied and been accepted into this program,” said YEA! Program Manager Peggy Richard. “These are the young leaders who will change their own communities, the state and quite possibly the world.”
Local educators and business executives are encouraged with the promise of the YEA! program to bestow upon its students valuable real-life skills and training. “One of the most interesting components of the program is the actual behind the scenes knowledge the students are given from local business leaders, who were at one time, standing in their shoes!” said Dearborn Schools Superintendent Brian Whiston. “The experience is something they will be able to apply to whatever field they choose to enter, thereby giving them the necessary skills to become future leaders of industry.”
“The entire community is really on board with the chamber’s launch of this program,” adds Superintendent Whiston. “We are urging all local business leaders to become involved with the program and act as mentors to the budding entrepreneurs.” By partnering with YEA!, both large and small companies/businesses volunteer their time and services acting as business mentors, field trip hosts, guest lecturers, graphic designers, web developers, attorneys, etc. Community support strengthens the program, and the academy strengthens the community!
When asked why the Dearborn Area Chamber chose to partner with YEA! and bring the YEA! program to your community, Richard responded, “Our chamber has always been committed to improving our local community and preparing our area’s youth to meet the challenges of today’s world, and the YEA! program is in perfect alignment with that mission. We can’t wait to see all of the enterprises students in our area will still be launching!