Junior Achievement of Central Maryland Inc.’s Biz Town area. Photo courtesy of Junior Achievement.
Junior Achievement of Central Maryland Inc.’s Biz Town area. Photo courtesy of Junior Achievement.

Junior Achievement of Central Maryland is launching a new program this summer to equip 200 middle and high school students with skills needed to become successful entrepreneurs — even during a pandemic.

The Maryland State Department of Education recently awarded an $80,000 grant to Junior Achievement to launch the three-week pilot program, called JA Entrepreneurship Summer Experience.

The program will run from July 12-30, with classes held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Classes will be held virtually four days per week and one day in person at Junior Achievement’s newly built Regional Workforce and Innovation Center at 1725 Twin Springs Road in Southwest Baltimore.

“We are thrilled to be working with the Maryland Department of Education on this exciting summer program that will benefit so many students in the region,” Jennifer Bodensiek, President of Junior Achievement of Central Maryland, said in a statement. “The program will focus on intensive instruction on creative problem solving, rapid business planning, and thinking like an entrepreneur. We believe this program will have a positive impact on the lives of students who might otherwise receive little attention.”

Junior Achievement and the Maryland education department will recruit students who are entering grades 8, 9, and 10, and who are interested in careers in business, management and finance.

The program will focus on “special population and non-traditional students,” such as individuals from low-income families, individuals preparing for non-traditional fields, single parents, disabled people, homeless students, and other individuals with obstacles to educational achievement.

“The Maryland State Department of Education is committed to preparing our future workforce through robust (career and technical education) CTE programming,” Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon said in a statement. “Together with Junior Achievement, we are preparing students to become business owners and entrepreneurs. With the program content aligning with Business, Management, and Finance CTE programs of study, students will be able to apply what they learn over the summer in their middle and high school courses.”

Each week of the program will focus on a different aspect of business, starting with creative problem solving and brainstorming “customer-centric” ideas.

During the second week, students will learn about entrepreneurial principles, strategies and skills, and apply them to their own lives.

The final week will have students use a one-page business plan template, called Lean Canvas, to learn about business planning.

Participants will earn a certification from the Maryland State Department of Education that aligns with business, management, and finance career and technical education.

Diana Emerson, the director of entrepreneurial experiences at Junior Achievement of Central Maryland, said the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the need for businesses to acclimate quickly to unexpected situations.

Some businesses closed their brick-and-mortar stores and pivoted to online sales,  restaurants shifted to carryout models while they were unable to host customers for in-person dining, and smaller startups moved to popup models, Emerson said.

The JA Entrepreneurship Summer Experience program will also bring in industry experts, business executives and volunteers to coach the students through the business plan development process and share their own experiences in business.

Past speakers have included Baltimore business owners such as Tia Hamilton, founder of Urban Reads Bookstore; Nicolas China, founder of Pixilated, the photo booth company; and Jennifer Vick, founder of Lax So Hard, a lacrosse fashion company.

“Most entrepreneurs have started anywhere from five to 20 businesses in their career pathway before they figured out what that golden ticket is for them,” Emerson said, adding that it is important for students to understand that there is no “Easy Button” in business.

She said Junior Achievement wants all types of students to know that a career in business is an option.

“You don’t have to always seek out the standard nine-to-five job because we understand that your career path is not always a straight line,” she said. “We try to make sure that the students have access to any and every possible resource to build out what they want to do for the future.”

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...