Every summer a group of students in New York City, on the cusp of entering High School, are challenged to find a cause and develop a business to fund it. And this has to happen in six weeks!
Natalie McQueen, Director of Transition in District 75, the special education district in NYC, introduces schools to a program called, "Step Ahead". School teams gear up, research environmental, humanitarian, animal rights, and even health issues. Then each team identifies a charity or organization to support. Then comes the hard part...making money. In collaboration, each team develops a business plan, purchases materials or provide services, carefully account for their expenditures, profits, and donations, and then chronicles the experience into a presentation at the end of the summer in an entrepreneurship fair.
Students have supported recycling, hurricane victims, abused animals, African malaria suppression, Meals on Wheels, and many other organizations. They've raised money through bake sales, odd jobs, creating furniture out of cardboard and pocketbooks out of old jeans. Some students built 'bat houses' to send to Africa to increase the population of mosquito-eating bats in areas rife with malaria.
The projects, the plans, the connection to work, finance, and business, all in the service of good works, has been a wonderfully successful program. Just listen to the students in this video to find out why...