by | 'Sep 14, 2016' | Uncategorized

The comprehensive K-12 Entrepreneurship Education Initiative known as America’s Entrepreneurial Schools began last year in West Virginia and has been awarded nearly $2.2 million to expand efforts to more counties in West Virginia as well as counties/districts in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.

EntreEd Executive Director Gene Coulson said the $2.2 million Appalachian Regional Commission grant awarded through the POWER initiative will be disbursed to his organization over three years, hopefully alongside the $75,000 over three years that his group has applied to receive from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The Benedum Foundation and the Appalachian Regional Commission — an economic development partnership among the federal government and state and local governments — together gave $125,000 for Coulson to begin the entrepreneurship education program last school year.

Dr. Coulson developed the initiative and demonstrated great success with last year’s pilot schools.  Click here to learn about pilot programs

The POWER grant will allow the America’s Entrepreneurial Schools Initiative to spread to districts and counties in five states to widen the reach.

The program aims to get entrepreneurship education and the entrepreneurial mindset to every student from Kindergarten through post-secondary education, in each participating school. This can include students starting class-run businesses, creating business plans, working with mentors or participating in entrepreneurship-related activities in industries such as agriculture or hospitality.

Teachers can also integrate entrepreneurship into the education standards they’re already required to teach. The Entre-Ed site provides resources to help teachers in specific content areas get started.

Schools that succeed in reaching every student with entrepreneurship education can earn the America’s Entrepreneurial Schools Designation. See how your school can participate

Three West Virginia Counties (Calhoun, Gilmer and Lincoln) will all continue their programs from the 2015-2016 school with four additional counties slated to come on board this school year.

The plan is to enter into an additional 11 Kentucky counties, three Ohio, counties, three Virginia counties and one Tennessee county.  With multiple school districts per county in other states, the number of participating schools could be rather large.

To accommodate for the expansion into so many counties and school districts, America’s Entrepreneurial Schools Initiative will enlist the help of 8 Community and Technical Colleges that serve the identified counties along with Regional Coordinators who will serve as liasons and organizers between the colleges and schools.

“They know the local K-12 schools, they know the superintendents and the principals,” Coulson said of the colleges. The grant funds can also help support college outreach efforts to the schools and on-campus events aimed at promoting entrepreneurship.

The community and technical colleges planned to take part are, in West Virginia, BridgeValley, New River and Southern West Virginia; in Kentucky, Big Sandy, Hazard and Southeast Kentucky; and in Virginia, Mountain Empire. Mountain Empire is anticipated to serve the one Tennessee county as well as the four in Virginia.

Joe Kapp, Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College’s entrepreneur-in-residence, will be working with all the community colleges to help them fulfill the goals of the grant.

He said such colleges are often the only places in small towns to earn skills, and while they have historically focused on academics and workforce development through providing technical skills like welding and cosmetology, this grant will add the “third leg” that’s often been missing: entrepreneurial skills such as how to start a business, pursue clients and do billing.

By helping schools build an entrepreneurial mindset from an early age, students may start to think “outside of the box.”  Business today is done globally and locally.  Students will see the power of their technological global reach and understand that there are opportunities to grow and succeed even in a small rural town.

Kapp commented that the grant will help students see alternative paths to employment such as creating one’s own job.  Colleges can help provide training and resources for young entrepreneurs in the form of mentorships, resources (such as prototyping labs) and business expertise.

“Historically, coal has been such a driver of the economy that there hasn’t necessarily always been the need to invest in education, and the great thing about these POWER grants is they provide the opportunity for the short- and the long-term investments,” Kapp said.

Coulson said the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, a partner in the expansion, will be providing related webinars for the colleges and a hotline for their questions, while the Morgantown-based nonprofit EdVenture Group will provide similar services for the K-12 schools.

If you would like to learn about becomming one of America’s Entrepreneurial Schools click here.

Source:  Charleston Gazette by Ryan Quinn @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.  See more at:

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