02/22/2013 04:32 pm ET Updated Apr 24, 2013

Why We Should Bring Entrepreneurship Into Every School

Written by Jabari Smith - Aspiring Entrepreneurs Facilitator at Manual High School

"I am going to get something out of this" exclaimed Manual High School junior, Keith Patterson, as the rest of his classmates sat on edge awaiting results from the Aspiring Entrepreneurs class elections. The roles of President and Vice President of our venture project were up for grabs and Keith was stepping beyond his comfort zone by running for office. Such confidence is precisely why the ambitious 16-year-old was selected by his fellow-aspiring entrepreneurs to serve in the premier role as venture CEO.

YouthBiz launched our classroom-based Aspiring Entrepreneurs course at Denver's legendary Manual High School in 2012, with the intention of extending its reach beyond after-school programming and to expose as many students as possible to the idea that by merging their innate passions with fundamental business skills they can legitimately thrive as entrepreneurs. It is a direction that not many inner-city public school youth are pushed toward, which is why I am enthralled with the school-based innovation my work with YouthBiz allows. Furthermore, it is why I am in inspired by young entrepreneurs like Keith.

With a busy schedule full of extra-curricular activities, a job at Albertson's grocery store, a girlfriend, and four additional core-classes, knowing what motivates Keith has become a point of interest amongst all those who work with him, peers and instructors alike. "My father has been the biggest influence and through him I was motivated by how I did not want to live," explained Keith in a sincere tone. "I started to think about business in the 6th grade and this came about through a love of money. My family didn't have much money, so I felt like if I made a lot I could help my family and community."

Fast forward five years and the Aspiring Entrepreneurs course is now helping the 11th grader understand that being successful in business takes more than a "get money" mentality. "YouthBiz teaches you the basic skills you need to maintain a self-owned business. This class has made me a stronger speaker, a more responsible person, and given me more leadership qualities than I ever believed was possible."

Delving deeper into what drives his thirst for success, Keith, with a mature level of clarity and intelligence, divulges "I perceive myself to be an entrepreneur. It's not just starting a business, its being a leader, being innovative, and being committed to whatever you want to achieve. Goals are one of the most important aspects of being an entrepreneur because you have to have a vision. "
A culture of visionary leadership and enthusiasm for the future is not only aligned with the overall mission of YouthBiz, but also with the personal goals I have set for my cadre of young entrepreneurs. And as Keith alluded to, it is a culture that is being cultivated within the school-based Aspiring Entrepreneurs program daily.

"Moving forward, I feel like this course is going to help me have a step up on others that want to major in business (in college) because I have already had experience in a business atmosphere. I will already have basic skills and knowledge that not everyone gets to learn at my age," says a smiling Keith.

And as we navigate entrepreneurial terrain, from group initiatives such as our hugely successful school-wide Valentine's Day fundraiser - "Cupid's Flowers", to launching individual businesses, I believe that such basic entrepreneurial knowledge is seeping beyond their experience in the classroom and spilling into their lives.

Keith affirms this by acknowledging that YouthBiz has already made a long-standing impact on his journey. "The most valuable lesson I have gained, thus far, from this course is the basic business cycle: plan, decide, act, assess, and achieve. This cycle is key to achieving anything you want in life."
And like a true leader, Keith is not only focused on his own success, but also on the success of his fellow-aspiring entrepreneurs. "My hope is that as a class we'll all be prepared for the future and use what we've learned to launch businesses and be successful."

Indeed, Keith! Not only are our sentiments in sync, but what more could a fearless leader and teacher of entrepreneurship ask for. The BEST is yet to come...

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