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Eastern Kentucky middle school students hope to start businesses, help build their communities

Students from seven Eastern Kentucky middle Schools participated in the 2019 Regional Entrepreneurial Competition held in Knott County last month (Pnoto provided)

By Ron Daley
Special to KyForward

Eastern Kentucky middle school students demonstrated their entrepreneurial and creative abilities during the 2019 Regional Entrepreneurial Competition held in Knott County last month showing their potential to help grow the economy.

Morehead State University School of Business and students from a BBA 350 (Entrepreneurship and Innovation) class, and Dr. Janet Ratliff, along with Andrew Castle from the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC), all helped in the coordination of “Building Entrepreneurial Capacity for the Future” and the competition. Faculty, staff and 34 students from Morehead State University (MSU) then judged their businesses.

Overall the competition gave 540 middle school students, from seven schools, eight districts and five counties an opportunity to gain real life business skills and applicable entrepreneurial knowledge. They created in the process, 165 businesses ranging from a wide variety of product offerings in both goods and services.

Millard 7th graders in Pike County “Sensory Shop” (L-R) Alyssa Bentley, Jacob Newman, Abby Hopkins. (Photo by Ron Daley)

Thirty-nine teams of students showcased a wide range of entrepreneurial projects supported with business plans at the Knott Sportsplex. Students had previously competed at their middle schools and the winners advanced to this regional competition. The students in attendance set up a display, prototype and business plan to adequately present their business (be it a good or service) to be judged.

Teachers that served as coaches for the middle school teams attended a one-day training given by Dr. Ratliff, the Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Smith Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship at MSU. The teachers received a complete set of materials that they were free to use in their classes covering entrepreneurship education at the middle school level.

The KVEC Entrepreneurial program helps teachers introduce their students to entrepreneurship at the middle school level. The students create business plans and example products or services and then enter them into a school-level competition. The winners are then eligible to compete at the regional level at the KVEC Entrepreneurial fair.

“This is an invaluable experience for students as it walks them through the thought process of creating and establishing a business,” says Andrew Castle the Student Lead at KVEC.

“Entrepreneurism is the key to the future of our region and these students, and their teachers are on the front lines of this potential,” states Ratliff. “This is the perfect age for students to explore career opportunities and entrepreneurism as an option. This is the time they have an appetite for occupations. They know they have the option to work for someone in the career field they chose or create their own jobs.”

Sixth graders at Jackson Independent created their “Teacher’s Petz” project after seeing how hard their teachers Work. “Our teachers are so busy that it is difficult for them to clean their classrooms without spending much time after class ends so we thought we would help them while generating revenue,” explains six grader Chloey Hayes.

Hayes, Natalie Combs, Karigan Turner, and Sami Noble created their own cleaning supplies and contracted to clean the rooms. Like many of the other teams they donated the proceeds to worthy causes. Natalie said they are giving the money to help the Amazon Forest. The gave funs last year to the 9 11 Fund.

Paintsville Independent “Outdoor Superstore” team (L-R) Bryce McDonald, Ethan Elliot, Carson Holbrook (Photo by Ron Daley)

The eighth-grade team called “Outdoor Superstore” from Paintsville created fishing supplies to sale including bobbers, lures and minnow traps. Bryce McDonald said that his team enjoyed the outdoors and know the needs of anglers. His father Tim McDonald is a professional fisherman on the Fishing League Worldwide. The other team members are Ethan Elliot and Caron Holbrook.

“We love America and we love pretzels,” Millard eighth-grader John Jones states about their project “Patriotic Pretzels.” The Pike County team sold 500 pretzels at $1 each and is donating to the Shriners. The team dipped the pretzels in white chocolate covered in red, white and blue sprinkles. The other team members are Marcus Damron, Brayden Salyers, and Nathan Keene.

Three seventh-graders at Millard created the “Sensory Shop” as a tool to help learning differenced students. They are using the funds they raised making slime materials to expand their sensory portal as a learning tool. “Students learn differently and may have special challenges which require different learning and using special vison and touch material helps,” explains Abby Hopkins. The other team members are Alyssa Bentley and Jacob Newman.

KVEC provided $2,000 funding per district to implement their projects. The Booth Entrepreneurship Center at Morehead State University provided all materials, curriculum and training for teachers and provided cash awards to all student winners.

Ron Daley now resides in Lexington and continues to work as the strategic lead for the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC). KVEC is a consortium of 23 school districts.

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