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High School students learn pathways to entrepreneurship with BUILD

High school students earn credits building businesses

Karen Morales
High School students learn pathways to entrepreneurship with BUILD
Students with Business Pathways Dual Enrollment program, which enables high school students to earn credits while gaining hands-on business experience. (Photo: Photo: Courtesy BUILD)

Students at Charlestown High School are learning the fundamentals of business and marketing — all while earning college credit. This fall, the high school launched its Business Pathways Dual Enrollment program, in partnership with Bunker Hill Community College and youth entrepreneurship program, BUILD.

Founded in 1999, BUILD is a national program that teaches entrepreneurship through experiential learning and operates in the San Francisco Bay area, metropolitan Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, and greater Boston.

On the web

For more on BUILDFest, including ticket purchase:

Twitter: @BUILDinBoston




For information on BUILD national:

BUILD has been operating at Charlestown High for five years and via their entrepreneurial program as part of the Business Pathways curriculum. But now, freshman and sophomores in the Business Pathways program will be able to take college-level business and marketing classes, using Bunker Hill’s textbook and syllabus, during their elective period. As juniors and seniors, they can participate in advanced business classes, along with English and math, at Bunker Hill.

“It’s going to fast-track kids through that associate’s degree,” said Ayele Shakur, executive director of BUILD Greater Boston. “It will give them a lot of college exposure while they’re still in high school so that when they do graduate, they start ahead of the game.”

In addition to Charlestown High, BUILD currently works with 400 students in five other schools: Madison Park High School, Jeremiah E. Burke High School, Another Course to College, Community Academy of Science and Health (CASH), and Dearborn STEM Academy. By 2020, BUILD expects to expand and serve a bigger area, up to 10 schools and 600 students a year, Shakur said.

On Wednesday, October 19, BUILD will celebrate its fifth year of serving Boston Public Schools with BUILDFest Gala and Student Business Exp at the Boston Convention Center. The anniversary festivities include food, music, and opportunities for attendees to see firsthand the businesses that students have created. Also on the program: Jeffrey Glass, founding board chair of BUILD, and Mic Williams, founder of Boston Harbor Angels, will be honored with the BUILDer Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and BUILD Friend of the Year, respectively.

A headstart

Participants in the Business Pathways program will earn up to 30 college credits, thus meeting half of what’s required for securing an associate’s degree, as well as gain real-world experience in the business sector through entrepreneurship and internship training.

Roughly 25 students are enrolled in the program, which grants admission on a first-come, first-served basis. “There are no prerequisites,” said William Thomas, Charlestown High’s headmaster. “They just have to be ready to work hard.” If students do happen to fall behind, they are required to stay after school for additional tutoring and mentoring.

During the school’s elective period, participants of BUILD come up with a detailed business plan for a product they want to create and sell, and are given $300 of seed funding during their freshman year to get their business up and running. As the students grow older, continue to scale their businesses, calculate costs, and market to customers, they are given up to $1,000 of additional funding to take their micro-company to the next level.

Students can make real money with real customers and get to keep their profits. One of the program’s most successful ventures — Cookie Boss, a company that puts corporate logos on cookies for clients like Bank of America — has made $30,000 in sales since launching five years ago.

“Students not only learn about business through a textbook but also have that real world experience developing their own business, launching it, and then running it while they’re in high school,” Shakur said.

Thomas said he considered BUILD as a natural supplement to the Business Pathways Dual Enrollment Program while developing the idea with Bunker Hill. “We invited BUILD to be a part of that partnership because they’ve been doing great work with our students.”

As rising juniors and seniors, students in the Business Pathways program also will have opportunities for internships, Shakur said. “We’re looking into adding corporate partners to be connected to the program so students have internships while in school or summer,” she said.

Thomas believes that a business education is an essential foundation to success, regardless of the career path students choose. “We feel that our students would benefit from a training program that teaches them how to have good work ethics and cultivates soft skills, like resume writing, interviewing, and business environment manners,” he said. “A lot of these skills are transferrable.”

“Skills like communication, creativity, problem solving —even grit and perseverance, those are basic fundamental skills to be successful not just in school, but in career and life,” Shakur said.

Robert Kraft, New England Patriots owner, is a big supporter of the Business Pathways Dual Enrollment Program. He provided the initial seed funding to launch the program, Shakur said.

Part of BUILD’s mission is to provide programming at lower-performing schools.

“We want to operate where the need is greatest,” Shakur said. “We want to go to schools where there are not as many opportunities and students need additional support and resources.”