By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
The Albion community is stepping up to make entrepreneurs of its bright young minds, and Jackson County might not be far behind.
At an Albion City Council meeting earlier this month it was announced Albion Public Schools was fully funded to move forward in a partnership with the Generation E Institute, a Calhoun County nonprofit that provides free entrepreneurship education and programming for K-12 students.
With donations from the United Way, Albion Community Foundation and the Community Foundation Alliance of Calhoun County, nearly $7,000 has been secured to jumpstart community-wide programs that will assist students interested in creating and starting their own businesses.
The institute is active in more than 20 counties in Michigan, as well as part of Illinois and Indiana. Community Development Director Eric Tobin said surveys and discussions made it clear Albion could benefit from this initiative.
“Over 40 percent of the Albion students we surveyed are interested in starting their own business and would be interested in taking a class or participating in an after-school program on how to start their own business,” he said.
Generation E programs can be in school, after school or offered through other organizations, Tobin said.
The concept is to help create mentorships and build sustainable programs where Generation E offers students the tools and resources to develop and start their own business.
“Unbeknownst to the students — so you can’t tell the kids whether they are in elementary, middle or high school because it’s top secret —they are actually doing some of the stuff they might find boring in school,” he said.
Tobin said there have been initial discussions with the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Development Authority about bringing programming to Jackson County and “it’s not if it will come to Jackson, but when.”
Business plans utilize English and math skills and students will be taught about gathering consumer information, profit margins and good business practices.
Each May, participants have an opportunity to showcase their talent at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek in a student-business showcase, where they can sell goods, get feedback and win prizes and cash.
Generation E and Albion leaders are forming a strategic plan that Tobin said should result in five or six sustainable programs in Albion by July 2011. Generation E has also discussed with Superintendent Frederick Clarke about offering academic credit through the program.
Mayor Joe Domingo said he’d like to see the program tap into some of the resources at Albion College and is excited to see things progress.
“I think it’s going to be a community project — it has to be,” he said. “I’ll do everything I possibly can; all they have to do is ask.”