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Student Entrepreneurs at LYDIA

- Thursday, March 01, 2012

Posted by Grace Yi 


A few months ago, I had the chance to sit down with Travis Satterlee for an interview about his work with youth and teaching entrepreneurship in the classroom. Travis, having worked through the Entrenuity model over the past several years, has most recently been working through the StartingUp Now book, guiding students through their team-based business plan.

Travis is both a teacher and licensed clinical counselor working at the Lydia Urban Academy and Lydia Counseling Center at LYDIA, an organization that has, for almost a century, served children and families in communities across the country.



Can you provide some background on your students and the work you do with them?

At the Urban Academy, students are primarily Hispanic between the ages of 14 and 20. My job is to provide the students the opportunity to consider entrepreneurship as a Plan B for their lives. More than anything, I’m surprised by the students who are sparked by the idea of entrepreneurship as an option for their future path. The ones who connect with entrepreneurship have the aptitude for running with an idea or a vision with the realization that they finally have an outlet for their creative tendencies.

I was trained under the Entrenuity curriculum and have been implementing entrepreneurship in the classroom pushing for economic literacy. I’ve primarily used the business simulation games and work cards to help student groups create a business plan and start operational businesses such as a coffee shop, a garden project, and a vending machine business. Both the vending machine business and coffee shop operated for 2 years while the garden, though still operating, has been taken over by the residential program and has not had students engaged for awhile.

What are the most important and valuable tools necessary to teach entrepreneurship while engaging students in an effective way?

Exposing them to professionals and sectors that are interesting to them is crucial. So is the importance of experiential learning within the classroom setting to where they personally connect with the concept of running a business. Once doors are opened to the prospect of opportunity, the steps that lead them to small successes help set the foundation for them to keep pushing and moving forward with their activities.

What challenges have you and the students faced in the business planning and operations process?

Students did an excellent job in envisioning ideas and completing their business plans, but had a difficult time staying committed throughout the operation of the business after it launched. The most significant challenge that we’ve faced in helping students launch businesses through the school has been in student retention and engagement in the projects. People (both students and staff) regularly get cycled out and move on with their lives after graduating (or moving onto a new job) and don’t stick around. This makes it difficult engaging new students who were never a part of the initial business planning process like the individuals who shaped it from the beginning. Additionally, I work with a very diverse group of students that make it challenging to implement differentiated learning activities. A facilitator and school’s capacity to help support the students’ learning as well as operations is incredibly important, which educators should take into strong consideration if they plan on seeing these projects through long-term.

What has been most inspiring in teaching students about entrepreneurship? What words of wisdom can you share from your personal experience as an educator?

The key takeaways from my experience are found in the hope that entrepreneurship provides youth in enhancing their ability to make decisions for their future—independent from the constraints and challenges they may be facing. The other important value is the opportunity to help them develop healthy relationships through a classroom context, which will shape their personal and professional trajectory.

I think it’s important to have small, attainable goals that help encourage students feel confident and successful. Goals don’t have to be huge—like starting big businesses—but when you identify and attain some smaller goals, the skills and outcomes in reaching those goals are the valuable takeaways.

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