The Austin (Tex.) Independent School District’s Board of Trustees has many admirable core beliefs, including “All students will graduate college-, career-, and life-ready.” With that in mind, the District’s latest Strategic Plan Scorecard (PDF file) reveals that 90 percent of its students graduate from high school in four years, but only 70 percent enroll directly in college within one year of graduation (or earn college credit prior to high school graduation).
Among the district’s many efforts to improve college enrollment rates — and prepare more of its students for what life holds in store for them post-graduation — is an innovative program aimed at raising the bar on youth entrepreneurship. Aptly named Student INC, the district-embedded program is on a mission to ignite and align the youth entrepreneurship movement in Austin, and along the way, play a leading role in establishing the central Texas community as the youth entrepreneurship capital of the world.
In South Austin, where Crockett High School is located, the school district turned to our Professional Development Center to facilitate the enhancement of an existing Student INC program and implement programming that sets students up for success after graduation. That’s a perfect project for our professional development team, which works with educators across the country to make the high school experience more engaging for young people.
It turns out, Austin ranks No. 6 in the nation for its ability to attract experienced entrepreneurs and tech talent to the city’s south side. It also ranks No. 3 for economic growth potential and is No. 2 when it comes to the concentration of tech jobs within the country, according to Business Facilities’ 2018 Metro Rankings Report. In addition, the city is ranked No. 4 in the Technology IT Hiring Forecastwhen it comes to desirable locations where CIOs would like to add tech teams.
But if you stop to ask Desiree Morales, the Austin Independent School District’s entrepreneurship program director, about those figures, she’s quick to point out a hidden and troubling issue. While the city is proud that so many startups are launched in Austin — as well as the fact that so many tech companies call Austin home — she says most of that tech talent is imported. To address that issue, as well as prepare more of its students for college, career, and life, her school district is grooming the next generation of entrepreneurs, business and community leaders from within the local region.
And that’s where Eagle Rock comes into the picture, invited by the Austin district to assist in expediting the Student INC program at Crockett High School. The idea is to create programming within the district that sets students up for success in their own hometown following graduation.
“We are preparing students to seize the opportunity to fill a badly needed skill gap that forces Austin-based companies to import talent,” Morales said. “We’re thankful to the Eagle Rock Professional Development Center for helping us continue to develop and enhance our entrepreneurship education programs for Austin youth.”
Michael Soguero, our Director of Professional Development, and his team of professional development associates, employ a unique approach to working with organizations like Austin’s ISD. Called asset-based facilitation, we inventory strengths, and assets, and have unique frameworks to build on those ingredients.
“The thing about the Austin Independent School District that really inspired us,” said Soguero, “was they want what’s best for young people. And it’s more than entrepreneurship education. It’s social and emotional learning. It’s having young people ‘workforce ready,’ but also leading fulfilling lives.”
Student INC’s Entrepreneurship Program encourages local students to enhance their education through real-world collaborative projects. The program centers around an “INCubator” capstone class within Student INC that embraces strategies and skills learned by students to identify and work on solving real-life community problems.
At this point, the students are required to build a business plan around the solution to that community problem. At the end of the course, the students actually pitch their project to investors interested in backing the students’ efforts.
Much like a Texas-style “Shark Tank,” the end result is the students learn how to successfully plan for launching a business or nonprofit organization. Ideally, says Austin program director Morales, “Some of the kids will be running businesses before they’re even out of college.”
Here at Eagle Rock, our Professional Development Center (PDC) has long supported the creation of programs like Student INC in schools throughout the country. But the Austin Student INC program is indeed unique. It is student-centered, project-based education that’s rooted in real world possibilities and outcomes.
To learn more about this innovative program, watch this new video: