Starting in the 2015-16 school year, students in the Crockett High School attendance zone will have the opportunity to develop their own businesses and nonprofit organizations and present concepts to potential funding sources.

On April 30 in the Crockett campus library, Principal Craig Shapiro announced the Crockett High School Entrepreneurship Program partnership with Covington and Bedichek middle schools, Cunningham Elementary School and the Bazaarvoice Foundation. The initiative will establish a capstone course for high school students and weave elements of entrepreneurial education into students’ other classes starting at the kindergarten level, Shapiro said.

“We know that kids can learn better when they can apply their knowledge immediately,” Shapiro said. ” We’re losing kids left and right not because they don’t know how to read or write, but because they are absolutely bored.”

Hands-on initiatives to engage students are already in existence in AISD schools, such as Cunningham’s Microsociety program in which elementary students develop a model society and elect leadership, Shapiro said. Shapiro cited research showing 40 percent of jobs in 2020 will be entrepreneurial in nature, illustrating the necessity of preparing children.

“At the end of the day what we are creating here is not just another program, but, I think, a transformative process that’s going to help a lot of our kids who are struggling with the idea of ‘Why am I going to school? Why am I learning this; why am I doing this?’ We are going to now provide them some of the answers, and so I’m very excited about that,” Shapiro said.

Students will create their own business models and seek internships with startup companies, he said.

Bazaarvoice Foundation Executive Director Kelly Ballard presented Shapiro and Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz with a check for $55,050, which Shapiro said will help fund teacher training and a staff trip to see a model program already in existence in Illinois.

“We’re not saying that every kid is going to go out and be an entrepreneur,” Ballard said. “But what we do believe is that as educators, as a community, we have the responsibility to make sure that our kids are creative, that they’re persistent, that they’re not afraid of taking risks and that they develop leadership skills.”

AISD is the first district in the nation to develop a K-12 collaborative program of this nature, Ballard said.

“I think it’s great that we’re pushing the envelope,” Cruz said.

Cruz said he is thankful for the Austin ISD’s community partnerships, noting the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce helped support a project with three other schools based on the same model, and this program will take that effort “to the next level.”

The program’s mission is also aligned with entrepreneurship endorsements as part of the rollout of new state requirements for high school graduation, according to the district.

Teachers will begin training this summer. AISD has no plans at this time to hire additional teachers to support the program, Shapiro said.The estimated total cost of the program’s implementation is $65,000-$70,000 for the first year, Shapiro said.

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