New Program Helps Youth Acquire Business Skills

CHICAGO, IL (November 23, 2011) – Sixty high school students are learning computer technology and entrepreneurship through a two-year program The House Covenant Church began this fall.

The church is partnering with families, schools, community organizations, and other churches to recruit and select students who will commit to a two-year technology and business development program called StartingUp Now. The students meet at the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation technology center from 4 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

Training is delivered in four areas: information specialist, information technology professional, application/web developer, and social media/strategy.

Students will learn fundamental concepts and skills in each area. Certifications are available for students, which will validate their skills to an employer or prospective client, says pastor Phil Jackson. He hopes students will be given internship opportunities after the first year.

“The program gives kids the permission to be more than the neighborhood says they are,” Jackson says.

The House received an anonymous grant of $25,000 to use specialized curriculum produced by Chicago-based Entrenuity. The nonprofit youth entrepreneurship program provides experiential training and consulting services to help young people start for-profit businesses while also promoting the students’ spiritual development.

Brian Jenkins, the nonprofit’s founder, became aware of the church’s extensive work in reaching teenagers and making positive differences in their lives, so he approached Jackson with the idea of using the curriculum.

The church is partnering with two other nonprofits in the area, says Jackson. The goal is to eventually enroll 100 students from the low-income area, where educational and employment opportunities are far more limited than in most other parts of Chicago.

The church provides direct instructional support and administrative oversight and provides students the opportunity to create and access their business plans online. Students who complete the program will build and keep their own computer, receive more than 350 direct service training hours, receive college credit for completing certification training, and develop skills for starting businesses.

As part of the program, students will start a business they already have named the Westside Geek Squad and sell website applications they have developed.

Developing business plans will come after students learn more about ethical business practices and the work that goes into being successful. “They see all the unethical stuff that is going on in the world,” Jackson says. “They also see a rapper making it big after putting out a CD, and they think that’s how it works.”

Another reality is that the program will require additional funding to underwrite the second year, says Jackson, who continues to pursue grants.

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