It is late afternoon on a Wednesday at the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools, and young entrepreneurs from around the world are standing in front of a 20-foot tall green screen. They are filming short videos about their ideas to solve huge problems like hunger and substance addiction. As part of a partnership with Boulder’s Watson Institute, a training ground for next-generation innovators and entrepreneurs, St. Vrain Valley Schools and Watson Institute students are learning how to pitch – a critical skill in today’s business world.
Today is just your average day at the Innovation Center’s new Entrepreneurial Zone.
When you hear the word “entrepreneur” – what comes to mind?
Your local shopkeeper, a small business owner or a brave risk-taker putting their livelihood on the line to create something new?
The Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools and its new Entrepreneurial Zone are trying to expand the definition of an entrepreneur and the way we think about entrepreneurship. “Our goal for the Entrepreneurial Zone is to create a way for students to live their purpose,” says Zone teacher and program developer, Jeff Lund. “We want to help students find out what they were meant to do, instead of doing something they were told to do.” As a result, St. Vrain’s new program focuses as much on the entrepreneurial mindset as the actual mechanics of starting a business.
THE WORLD NEEDS MORE ENTREPRENEURS
By some estimates, the world needs 600 million new jobs by 2025 to handle the growing workingage population. Business leaders like Michael Dell, chairman and chief executive officer of Dell Technologies, point out that these jobs aren’t likely to come from big corporations, but instead from entrepreneurs and small businesses. The skills required to succeed as an entrepreneur, including creative thinking, problem solving, innovation, and tenacity, are valuable skills to learn and bring to any career.
St. Vrain is creating tomorrow’s entrepreneurs with support from Community Strong partners like the Daniels Fund.
When the Daniels Fund, a private charitable foundation dedicated to making life better for the people of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, heard about the fledgling Entrepreneurial Zone program they immediately recognized its uniqueness. In the fall of 2018, the organization provided a significant investment to quickly expand the program’s reach and offerings. According to Linda Childears, President & CEO of the Daniels Fund, the foundation is “excited about supporting the Innovation Center because it not only helps students develop critical entrepreneurial skills, it also gives them the opportunity to work with businesses, gaining experience that can prepare them to launch their careers when they complete school.”
The Daniels Fund’s investments are already having a significant positive impact on St. Vrain students like Kerly Baltierrez Rodriguez, a student at Skyline High School.
Kerly started out on the Innovation Center’s studio team, where she learned film production and presentation skills. Now, she’s putting those skills to work in the Zone by producing a short documentary series about career options. Her first subject is a young entrepreneur – and fellow St. Vrain graduate – who is selling her own handmade guitars. Kerly loves how the program is giving her a chance to explore and share her own vision. “I’m glad that we can show someone living her passion,” says Kerly. “I think we can inspire students to pursue the career they want, and push themselves to achieve their goals.”