By LAURIE SALLARULO AND DONNA KORN
SPECIAL TO THE SUN SENTINEL | DEC 03, 2021 AT 8:00 AM
Unleashing the highest potential of every young person is at the core of Broward County Public Schools and Junior Achievement of South Florida’s missions. The partnership between the two organizations has deepened over the past 13 years and is focused on integrating relevant, experiential Junior Achievement programs around work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy into core curriculum. These programs provide classroom lessons and simulations that help students connect academics and real life while building knowledge, skills, habits and mindsets that prepare them for success.
In addition to teaching work skills, another common goal of BCPS and Junior Achievement is exposing students to pathways that spark their interest and passion. A key pathway is entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship education builds character as well as critical thinking skills, which prepare students for any path our students decide to pursue.
Entrepreneurship education not only provides the capacity to start companies, which more and more young people are interested in today, but also teaches students from all socioeconomic backgrounds to think creatively, solve problems, work collaboratively, build confidence and develop talents and skills critical to success.
Entrepreneurship education is a lifelong learning experience, starting as early as elementary school and progressing through higher education. Studies of high-school-level curricula in youth entrepreneurship report that students increase their career goals, interest in college and leadership behavior after participating in entrepreneurship programs. In addition, the study shows that students who participate in entrepreneurship education are four times more likely to develop a sense of ownership — businesses, homes, cars, financial and job ownership.
Each year, Junior Achievement of South Florida provides entrepreneurship education to over 600 high school students across 28 BCPS high schools. Over the course of the school year, these students develop problem solving, communication, collaboration, presentation and critical thinking skills by starting real operating companies, taking them from ideation to capitalization to dissolution. Students source, market and sell their products, learning about supply chain and logistics management, customer service and financing. Student company teams compete locally and nationally for Company of the Year status. This program is transformative!
But this education should be available to every student. This type of learning can help address systemic inequities in our education system, as research suggests that at-risk students who develop these skills early are more likely to enroll in post-secondary education, be prepared for the workforce, and engage in entrepreneurial activity. Entrepreneurship education can provide a chance for every student to change their circumstances and self‐determine their future. It can create a level playing field where the best ideas win.
The nature of the workforce is changing rapidly and we must focus on getting our students ready to succeed in the new global marketplace. Preparing today’s students to succeed in tomorrow’s world requires that students be prepared with the capacity to achieve not only in business as we know it today but in future business models that we have yet to explore. This is a pivotal responsibility for education today. It is imperative that we all play a role in this responsibility. Corporate leaders must invest in preparing the future workforce; parents must advocate for entrepreneurial education, ensuring their children possess the entrepreneurial spirit and mindset they’ll need to be successful; and local, state and federal political leaders need to support this curriculum as a core competency in education.
Junior Achievement of South Florida and Broward County Public Schools continue to explore expanded opportunities to work together to provide more students with an entrepreneurial opportunity along their educational journey.
We can all be a catalyst in creating a vibrant, equitable culture of innovation and entrepreneurship for all of our children. Join Junior Achievement and BCPS in this educational movement! For more information about Junior Achievement entrepreneurship programs, how to get involved as a mentor or advocate or to support these programs, visit jasouthflorida.org/ja-fellows.
Laurie Sallarulo is President and CEO of Junior Achievement of South Florida, and Donna Korn is a member of the Broward County School Board.