Students from four Boston high schools are finding the motivation to work hard in school through an entrepreneurship program offered by BUILD Greater Boston. BUILD’s most recent event, in partnership with MassChallenge, gathered a select group of entrepreneurs and business professionals to inspire student entrepreneurs from some of Boston’s lowest performing high schools. The event serves as an exclusive opportunity to “pass the torch” of mentoring and spark innovation by offering advice to emerging young entrepreneurs.
“MassChallenge was an extraordinary event that provided our students with helpful feedback from entrepreneurs who are also in the process of starting their own businesses,” said Jasmine Toussaint, BUILD 9th Grade Entrepreneurship Program Manager. “The coaches helped guide students at a very vulnerable point in the development of their businesses. It truly was a meeting of entrepreneurial minds!”
The event was held on January 16, from 3-6 PM, at the MassChallenge business incubator at One Marina Park Drive in Boston, with 75 freshmen from four Boston high schools participating. Working with the students were 28 BUILD volunteer mentors and 18 MassChallenge Coaches, along with the BUILD staff.
“MassChallenge provided our students with a unique experience that would not exist unless we had dedicated and patient volunteers,” said Edson Cardoso, 9th Grade Entrepreneurship Teacher, Charlestown High School. “The MassChallenge coaches worked carefully with their teams and provided valuable feedback and support that our students both needed and appreciated.”
The partnership began in collaboration with BUILD Mentor and Mass Challenge finalist Nathan Rothstein, President of Project Repat . Together with Ryan Oliver, Site Director for BUILD, they created this innovative event for BUILD students. It was designed to be a meeting of entrepreneurial minds. Students find this program to be very rewarding as it gives them the opportunity to get feedback from entrepreneurs with real business.
“I really appreciated the wisdom the coaches demonstrated,” said Tenasia, a 9th grader at Charlestown High. “Now my team and I are really determined to improve our presentation.”
Each of the 18 student business teams met with a MassChallenge coach and with their team mentor. Coaches pitched their businesses to students so they could see how polished entrepreneurs present their businesses. Then teams pitched their businesses to the coach, and received feedback not only on their presentation, but on their product and business plans, as well. A team from each of the four schools (Another Course to College in Brighton, Charlestown High, Community Academy of Science and Health in Dorchester, and Jeremiah E. Burke High in Dorchester) was selected to present their business in front of an audience of more than 100 people.
The coaches enjoy the opportunity to give time to BUILD’s mission of improving academic outcomes for Boston high school students and to inspire young entrepreneurs. “Being a BUILD mentor gave me the opportunity to use my passion for entrepreneurship to inspire greatness in others,” said Shonak Patel, MassChallenge Alumni. “The experience and commitment is ultimately about reshaping lives for the better, not just the students’, but my own as well.”
BUILD‘s mission is to use entrepreneurship to excite and propel disengaged, low-income students through high school to college success. Founded in California in 1999, BUILD serves 1,200 students nationally. BUILD Boston was launched in 2011 and serves 200 Boston high school students. Working in schools with graduation rates as low as 40%, more than 95% of BUILD students have graduated on time and been accepted to college.
MassChallenge is the world’s largest startup accelerator and competition.The nonprofit organization selects over 100 startup companies annually to participate in its four-month accelerator program, which provides entrepreneurs access to expert mentors, marketing and media resources, funding opportunities and free office space in Boston. Following the four-month accelerator period, MassChallenge awards $1 million in grants to the program’s top companies.