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High school students want more training in entrepreneurship, ‘hustle’ to prepare for life after graduation

Destiny Clay 

Youthcast Media Group®

Jordan Williams wants to grow into a media personality when he’s in college. But while being an 11th grader at Bard High School Early College, managing basketball, podcasting, and school, he realized that the school's resources for learning more about entrepreneurship are extremely limited.

Jordan says that if classes were more filtered toward students' interests and prepared them for their desired work life, more students would probably feel more enthusiastic to come to school every day. 

Joni Holifield with some of her HeartSmiles youth leaders, called “Heartbeats” (Courtesy of Holifield)

Joni Holifield, who runs HeartSmiles, a Baltimore nonprofit that trains teens to be entrepreneurs and business leaders, thinks this is a mistake. She states that skills like financial literacy, marketing, and technological skills are necessary for entrepreneurship but are not covered in the curriculum.

“And for sure, nobody is talking about owning your own or starting your own [business],” she said. “It's all about training you up to basically be just a number.”

Even more important than specific skills such as marketing, though, said Holifield, is learning leadership and how to get on a path that a student is passionate about.  “The first question has to be, ‘what do you want to do… what is your version of success?’ And then allowing young people to be able to dictate what that looks like for them,” she said.

To some Bard students, success looks like owning their own business and “hustling.”

“Hustling is like working towards a goal that you want to achieve," said Itohen Ihaza, an attorney who practices in New York City. 

Brianna Jenkins, a senior at Bard, said that entrepreneurs have to have “diligence, drive, determination, resilience, and creativity.” 

Joni Holifield (courtesy of Holifield)

But while many students have the motivation, they need guidance to find their way, Holifield said. And if young people want more entrepreneurship guidance and opportunities within the public school system, it’s up to them to push for change.

“Nobody is really stepping up to really challenge the systems and to challenge the structure,” she said. “So it really is going to be on young people who are coming up today to really put themselves in positions of power where they can try to undo and fix some of these things.

Kaemon McNeil, a senior at Bard, echoed this belief.

“A lot of students want to build businesses but yet don't have the foundation to do so," he said. “This foundation needs to be changed, and it is up to us to promote and use our voice as a movement to form this change and help our younger generation become more entrepreneurs.”


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