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Two Lexington sophomores get a jumpstart on success with entrepreneurial venture


 

Amy Johns, seated, coordinator of Instructional Technology for Fayette County Schools, was impressed by the students' initiative and confidence. (Photo by Tammy L. Lane)

Amy Johns, seated, coordinator of Instructional Technology for Fayette County Schools, was impressed with Shea Hausman, left, and Drake Witt. ‘As an educator, nothing excites me more than seeing students taking charge of their learning,’ Johns said. (Photo by Tammy L. Lane)


 

By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward
 

A pair of Lexington sophomores took advantage of their three-week Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs experience this summer to jumpstart their own business.
 

Shea Hausman of Paul Laurence Dunbar High and Drake Witt of Bryan Station High teamed with two students from Wolfe County to create Connected Learning And Student Progress – CLASP – software that offers live-stream teachers’ lessons with a video chat on the side to help with after-school learning and homework.
 

“This is an easy-to-use tool,” said Drake, who designed the logo and the demo. “We want to make education better. There’s really no software like this, so we want to be innovative with it.”
 

CLASP also has archived sessions, teacher-uploaded materials and an analytics platform for schools to check students’ usage. “Our biggest pitch is we’re students and we know what’s missing,” Shea said, adding that a tutorial and more features are under development.
 

The students registered their venture as CLASP Learning LLC, were accepted into Microsoft’s BizSpark program for start-ups, and set up a GoFundMe account to help cover other costs. They also presented their product at a Wolfe County Board of Education meeting and to Amy Johns, coordinator of instructional technology for Fayette County Public Schools. The group aims to have a viable product ready for beta testing this fall.
 

“As an educator, nothing excites me more than seeing students taking charge of their learning,” Johns said. “Although only sophomores in the IT Academy at Bryan Station and the MSTC program at Dunbar, Drake and Shea are not waiting for a high school diploma or college degree to jump-start their creativity and success. They are taking ownership of their futures by continuing to develop a project into a real business.”
 

Shea and Drake hope that fellow students in FCPS will be part of the beta rollout.
 

“The feedback that comes from our first year of testing will enable us to have a good product before we actually market it,” he said.  

“They are taking ownership of their futures by continuing to develop a project into a real business.” — Amy Johns, FCPS Instructional Technology

Johns was receptive but suggested some potential hurdles such as student privacy, teachers’ willingness to participate and trouble multitasking in a multimedia environment, and competition from similar products like Periscope.
 

“You’ll want to do a lot of testing to work out the bugs and kinks,” she advised the pair.
 

Drake and Shea aren’t worried about running into roadblocks, they said, because the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs taught them how to pivot – to change direction and look for another route to a solution.
 

“If you remember one thing from GSE, it’s that failing is a good thing,” Shea said.
 

“Pivoting is a good thing, too,” Drake added, noting how their idea evolved from its original form.
 

More than 60 students from across Kentucky attended GSE at Georgetown College. They visited fledgling area businesses and talked with the founders, and gathered advice from other successful professionals. The teens also learned about business models, investment capital, development and production, marketing and sales, customer validation, and long-range strategies. GSE provided a mentor for each group; CLASP’s was Fernando Moya, a software engineer at Lexmark.
 

Drake, who plans to major in computer science and maybe start his own company, feels more prepared after GSE.
 

“I have that flexibility now and those skills,” he said. “We actually got first-hand experience, and it’s a really neat program.”
 

Shea, who aspires to be a trauma surgeon, agreed. “I came out with a bunch of leadership skills I didn’t think I had, and it makes business seem feasible,” she said. “I figured out how applicable it is – how entrepreneurship fits everywhere.”
 

Johns was impressed.
 

“We can promote this type of thinking and learning in all of our students,” she said. “The power of real-world projects and experiences is what will make our students truly globally competitive, and these students’ initiative and drive should encourage all of us as educators to continue providing opportunities like this to help students achieve their goals.”
 

Tammy L. Lane is website editor and communications specialist for Fayette County Public Schools.


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