This school year, 16 Polk County students are learning directly from local business leaders through the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce’s second annual Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA! Polk) as they shape their own business ideas.
Middle- and high school-age students from seven schools in Lakeland, Mulberry, Bartow and Auburndale, including home-schooled students, are participating in hands-on experiences to inform their career paths and sharpen their commercial awareness. The students attend IB at Bartow High School, Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, McKeel Academy of Technology, Polk Pre-Collegiate Academy, Southwest Middle School and Union Academy Bartow, as well as home-schooled students.
The students, who were chosen from among the best and brightest sixth through 12th graders, meet weekly in special classes at Lakeland’s Southeastern University, hosted by the Jannetides College of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership, overseen by instructors from Central Florida SCORE in Lakeland, including Pat Dooley, Ken Farris and Mark Scolnick.
Participants will be creating a business plan, developing a “pitch” for potential investors, obtaining financing, completing regulatory requirements such as licensing or registration with government agencies and establishing a web presence.
By the end of the academic year, the students will own and operate legitimate functioning businesses, which can be continued following the program.
On the national level, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy is offered by both public and private middle and high schools, as well as chambers of commerce, professional entities and institutions of higher learning.