CORA program helps students grow entrepreneurial spirit

Launched last fall, the Young Entrepreneurs Program helps sixth to eighth graders learn a craft like jewelry making and graphic design, and gives them a platform to sell it and earn money.

In Love With Love, a jewelry set created by sixth-grader Molly Stear as part of CORA Services’ Young Entrepreneurs Program.

In the age of COVID, it can be hard for folks to stay on the computer once their virtual schooling or work is done. But for kids in their middle school years missing out on a lot of in-person activities, CORA Services Inc. came up with a way to keep them active and engaged: Teach them to create their own stream of revenue.

The Young Entrepreneurs Program lets students in sixth to eighth grade across the city learn a specific skill and even lets them make money for it. Now preparing for its third iteration, students can choose to focus on making jewelry, ceramics or graphic designs. At the end of the program, their work will be displayed at an online marketplace for customers to purchase.

Stacy Leonard, managing director of community services, had the idea for the program as an offshoot of CORA’s career exposure summer program.

“When that program ended, we sat down and said those kids were great participants, but how do we motivate kids already on the computer all day to log back on if we don’t give them a stipend?” she said.

They realized having the kids sell their products would both earn them money and teach them important skills. Starting last fall, the first two iterations equipped about 70 kids across the city with entrepreneurial experience.

Students will meet virtually on a weekly basis to hear from professionals in the industry about their chosen craft, then convene for a business basics class that teaches them how to interact with customers and how to market and build a brand.

The free program will run about two months and provide needed materials for students to create their goods, including small tablets for students in graphic design. Students pocket 90 percent of the money made from the sale. The other 10 percent goes back to CORA to help fund the program.

Nicholas Przychodzien, 13, created Nick’s Spectacular Jewelry through the program.

“Parents I talk to are in awe of the program and that it is free,” said Barbara Gress, one of the coordinators of the program. “We are trying to teach kids to be responsible at home.”

The business class is taught by Priscilla St. Peter and Satta Goll, who make sure to emphasize that the first part of being an entrepreneur is self-care. St. Peter said while teaching the course, she realized a certain myth about online learning was untrue.

“People have told me before you don’t really get to know the kids you’re teaching online, and that is a bold-faced lie,” she said. “I’ve really gotten to know the kids and their parents, and seeing how some of them have grown almost brought me to tears.”

Molly Stear created Molly’s Miraculous Designs through the program.

The teachers highlighted students like Nicholas Przychodzien, 13, who participated in the first two iterations to launch Nick’s Spectacular Jewelry. They also praised sixth-grader Molly Stear who created Molly’s Miraculous Designs, and continued to get requests for her jewelry even after the items were sold.

If the program helps kids get through the boredom and remain productive during shutdown, it’s a success for CORA. But in some kids, it could plant the seeds for the entrepreneurial spirit to grow.

“Some plants take deep roots,” St. Peter said.

Learn more about the program at CoraServices.org/young-entrepreneurs/.