WESTFIELD, NJ —  Students in grades six through 12 are invited to apply for the Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneur’s Academy (YEA!), a program helps middle and high school students become real entrepreneurs. Recent participants launched a custom phone case company, invented and sold tablecloths that transform into garbage bags and more. 

Twenty-four students from Mountainside and the surrounding area will be accepted into the program, now in its third year.

“We currently have as many as 11 applications being submitted and have expanded to include some of the local parochial schools, so demand should be high,” said Mitch Beinhaker, program director. The program is open first to students who reside in Clark, Garwood, Mountainside, Westfield, Fanwood and Scotch Plains.

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“We will accept students outside of our six towns on a waiting list basis, if there are spots available,” Beinhaker said.

Highlights of the program include field trips to local businesses and a sports franchise, a roundtable discussion with local CEOs and a year-end competition in front of a real investors panel. The winner of that competition will go on to compete for national scholarships and chance to get on the television show “Shark Tank.”

This spring, Westfield teen Georgiana Katsingris moved on to the regional YEA! competition to win first runner up with her business, Wäkkii, which makes and sells t-shirts for young children with a variety of tails that attach to the back.

Participants should expect to commit to about three hours per week of classroom time, plus some outside the class work, “especially as we near the investor panel event,” said Beinhaker. “While it’s a big-time commitment for the kids, it is a unique opportunity to learn skills that it takes many of us well into adulthood to develop.”

Students and parents are invited to attend one of the following informal meetings to learn more:

Monday, Aug. 24, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Mountainside Public Library, 1 Constitution Plaza, Mountainside

Tuesday, Aug. 25, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Clark Public Library, Children's Program Room, lower level, 303 Westfield Ave., Clark

Monday, Aug. 31, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the Scotch Plains Public Library, 1927 Bartle Avenue, Scotch Plains

Monday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., Westfield Memorial Library, 550 East Broad St., Westfield

Click here to download the YEA! application.

Local businesses are also invited to get involved by sponsoring the program financially, volunteering to teach or speaking to the students.

For more information, call the GWACC at 908-233-3021 or email programmgr@yeawestfield.org.