Young Entrepreneurs Program
“When a child saves a single coin, it does not represent very much, but when a child saves a few coins, it begins to represent something very different – a choice.”
— Jeroo Billimoria, Founder, Aflatoun
Young Entrepreneurs Program (YEP) – An elementary school program that teaches financial education, entrepreneurship and philanthropy to children from families with limited financial resources.
The mission of YEP is to show children that money comes with possibilities, not just problems. The curriculum engages children with lessons that include saving, setting goals, budgeting, small business development and philanthropy. Students come away from the program with access to a savings account, the experience of a weekly savings habit at their school credit union, and the feeling of empowerment through financial education. Students meet weekly to talk about their experiences and attitudes around money in a safe and supportive environment. They collaborate on ways to raise money in order to meet their goals of spending within their budget, saving regularly and sharing with their community. Through this dynamic hands-on approach, students become active agents of change for themselves, their family and their community. Here, they not only become financially literate, but begin to understand a future-oriented and community-minded approach to the world.
YEP Entrepreneurial Projects
• Holiday greeting cards
• Calendars featuring student artwork
• School-wide bake sale
• Recycling and bottle return drive
YEP Philanthropy Recipients
Tompkins County SPCA • Doctors Without Borders • American Red Cross
Philanthropy connects students to real situations and real people (or animals!). Students decide what organization to donate to and how much of their profits to use. They don’t just send a check. They either visit the organization or receive a guest speaker who talks about the work their money is supporting.
• Improved behavior and social skills at school
• Students started saving extra money from home in addition to their business profits
• Student overheard talking about selling hot chocolate on her own to buy her grandmother a gift
• Student who initially was not interested in college changed her mind at the end of the program
YEP was created by Lauren Samuelson in the fall of 2009 as part of her AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) project for Alternatives. The program was originally designed to help children from families with limited financial resources earn money so they could participate in our elementary school savings program. The unexpected results of the program (better behavior in school, increased self-esteem, improved social skills, positive perception of their own future, etc.) led Lauren to evolve YEP into a successful financial education leadership and community-building program.
Lauren came to Alternatives after graduating from William Smith College with a degree in public policy. After completing her VISTA service with Alternatives, she went on to complete her Master’s degree in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis.
YEP is currently run by Cornell graduate student Tim Smith. Tim left a career in expatriate services to attend Cornell to finish an undergraduate degree and begin a new career in community development. In addition to YEP, he has worked with the Green Teens in Beacon, N.Y., the 4H Youth Development Committee, and spent the 2013 summer in Cameroon, Africa, working on the WebDev summer community development project. He enjoys traveling, agriculture, and food. His future dream is to travel the world helping farming communities to realize their full potential and increase economic activity for farm owners.