Think of it as Junior Achievement on steroids.
As a student in the E-City entrepreneurial program last school year, Cleveland’s Raquel Fuentes had to open and run her own business. The 16-year-old SuccessTech Academy junior created Comida Sabrosa, which translates into “tasty food.” Having learned to cook from her grandmother, she brought in samples of her signature dish, empanadillas, for her classmates and teachers. They loved them, and began buying them — lots of them — for $2 each. Soon, she was spending hours in her kitchen, in addition to keeping up with the schoolwork needed to stay an honor student. A year later, she has saved a decent chunk of money for college, where she hopes to eventually study law. She recently answered a few questions from PDQ’s John Campanelli.
……What has running your own business taught you about life?
It’s taught me a lot. It’s taught me that either you’re going to be your own boss and make your own money or you’re going to spend the rest of your life working for somebody else. And that education is the only way out.
More on the E City program:
E CITY (Entrepreneurship: connecting, inspiring and teaching youth) was founded in January 2002 in response to a concern over the high school drop-out rate among urban teens, and the discouraging cyclical life of poverty that those drop-outs settle into. E CITY offers a unique and innovative 70-hour after school educational program which focuses on entrepreneurial, business and life skills and targets students who are in the most vulnerable sections of our city. It is structured on the belief that kids in the inner city, who have mental toughness, street smarts, survival instincts and creativity, can put those innate traits to productive use, if shown how. The E CITY program helps students see the connection between academics and “real life,” and thereby increases the chances that they will stay in school.
E CITY was founded by John Zitzner, a successful entrepreneur who wanted to teach kids that they can also do what he had done, and that above all, they can take control over their own futures. Hundreds of Northeast Ohio business executives serve as volunteers for E CITY and work one-on-one with students to refine the students’ business plans.
E CITY held its first class in 2002 after receiving financial support and volunteer assistance from the community, including the city of Cleveland, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and several local community foundations. Since its first class, E CITY has taught over 80 programs in Cleveland middle and high schools. Over 900 teens have completed the program.
During the 70-hour program, students learn the basics of operating a business. Working with a mentor, the students create an original business plan. Students have the opportunity to connect with professionals who offer insight from their business experiences. At the end of the program, students present their plans to a panel of judges, competing for cash prizes that are used to reinvest in their business.
To date, five E CITY students have won the prestigious international award of “Young Entrepreneur of the Year,” awarded by NFTE annually. Some students who graduated from E CITY’s program have continued their businesses.
This is a fantastic program for kids to learn business skills and develop talents that will help them succeed in life.
Visit their homepage, read about the organization, and make a donation:
Mary A. Paxton
Associate Director of Development
3635 Perkins Ave., Suite 5 NE
Cleveland, Ohio 44114