WESTFIELD, NJ – Starting this fall, the Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce (GWACC) will offer 24 students in grades 9 through 12 the opportunity to become actual CEOs through The Young Entrepreneurs Academy, or YEA!, a groundbreaking educational program that takes kids through the process of starting and running real businesses over the course of an academic year.
Begun in 2004 at the University of Rochester, YEA! now has programs in 17 states. This will be the first in New Jersey.
“It’s a very exciting program,” said Mitch Beinhaker, chairman of GWACC. “Students who participate will have all the skills to start a business.”
Past YEA! participants in other areas have launched successful businesses including Running Wild Paintball, Bragg’s Fine Swine and Intel 4 India, which operates English learning centers across rural India that allow students to gain an educational advantage for just 25 cents a month.
In addition to enrolling students, the chamber is currently looking for local business people to get involved as mentors, guest speakers, sponsors, committee volunteers and other roles. Some will take part in an investor panel “kind of like Shark Tank for kids,” said Beinhaker, that will evaluate the students’ projects, give suggestions and ultimately choose a finalist to be flown with a parent to YEA!’s national competition in Rochester, NY.
Applications are currently being accepted for the YEA! class of 2013, which will meet on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Westfield High School. Students from the GWACC's towns of Westfield, Fanwood, Garwood, Mountainside and Scotch Plains are invited to participate.
Applications are accepted and approved on a rolling basis, and it is recommended that students submit them as soon as possible. The selection process is considered competitive. Tuition for the year is $395, with limited financial assistance available. Classes will begin in October of 2013 and end in June of 2014.
The next informational meeting will be held June 17 at 3 p.m. at Edison Intermediate School in Westfield. For More information, call 908-233-3021 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.