Public School Entrepreneurship Program Launched

November 1, 1998

Mark Miester

If the future of a community is rooted in its educational system, then the economic future of a community is rooted in its entrepreneurship--the ability of residents to create jobs and generate wealth within that community.

In September, the Levy-Rosenblum Institute (LRI) for Entrepreneurship at the A. B. Freeman School of Business kicked off a new program that combines education and entrepreneurship in an effort to transform the inner city of New Orleans. LRI is working with New Orleans public high school teachers to institute "academies of entrepreneurship" at four public high schools in New Orleans.

The concept, which has had great success in other cities across the country, is part of a national movement toward school-to-career training--training that better prepares high school students for the job market. It involves establishing what is essentially an entrepreneurship "major" at the four schools. Students registering for the academy enroll in a series of courses designed to introduce basic principles of business and give students first-hand experience in owning and operating a business.

The first two courses, Entrepreneurship I and II, are currently being taught to students at Clark High School, Cohen High School, Alfred Lawless High School and an alternative high school. LRI Director John Elstrott, who is also an adjunct professor of business, hopes that those classes are the cornerstone of what will one day be a complete entrepreneurship curriculum for public high school students interested in business.

"What we're doing with the academies of entrepreneurship is awakening inner-city adolescents to the possibility that they might one day start and own their own business," Elstrott explains. "Some kids will choose to do that once they become adults, and they'll create successful businesses. In the long run, they'll create jobs and wealth, and creating jobs and wealth that are owned by inner-city residents is what's ultimately going to turn this city around."

LRI hopes to establish a total of five academies of entrepreneurship in New Orleans public schools, each offering a entrepreneurship curriculum in accounting, marketing, financial math and economics. Entrepreneurs from New Orleans will serve as guest lecturers, and students will go on field trips to local businesses. Students will also earn credit for work-based learning.

In their junior and senior years, students will work paid internships at a local business, as well as develop and operate their own businesses. The academies are currently funded with a grant from the New Orleans public schools system through the end of the 1998-99 academic year. After that, in order to develop the academies, LRI hopes to form partnerships with community organizations that can offer resources and support to the program.

"We're going after measurable outcomes," Elstrott concludes. "[We are] trying to increase high school graduation rates, increase the number of kids that go to vocational school, increase the number of kids who go to universities and, ultimately, increase the number of kids who want to start their own businesses."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000