Operation HOPE, a nonprofit group that provides financial literacy and small-business training, has expanded
its reach to teach middle school students about entrepreneurship. For the past two years, the HOPE Business in a Box Academy (HBIABA) has worked with students in Oakland, Calif., Denver, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. The organization is partnering with Gallup to include polling to better track the results of the program.
The results so far have been encouraging. In schools that offer the HBIABA program, polls show that 79 percent of students would like to start their own business, compared with an average of 42 percent of youth nationally. “What we are looking for is a change in the culture of the school,” says Rebecca Blanco, youth business training program manager with the Youth Empowerment Program in Oakland.
The Oakland program, which started as a pilot at Westlake Middle School, has expanded into eight public schools. Students start with financial literacy classes where they learn about what Blanco calls “financial dignity.” That is, how respect for themselves and others relates to money, credit, investments, and budgeting. Then the middle schoolers receive instruction in such topics as developing an idea, making a financial plan, communication, and public speaking.
HBIABA students are given the choice of 25 types of businesses they can start for under $500. At the end of the class, “they give a presentation to Operation HOPE for a chance to be funded up to $500,” says Blanco.
“Think Shark Tank for kids, only the teeth are a little softer,” says Operation HOPE’s Tyrone Cosey. In addition, students may also be paired with business mentors who can support them as they launch their businesses.
Posted by Natasha Eldridge, Office of the Chairman