Public Square

How One Nonprofit Reduces High School Dropout Rates

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From likely high school dropouts to successful teenage entrepreneurs – these are the participants in BUILD, a four-year program that teaches high schoolers how to write business plans, create a product, and actually launch a business.

According to Sophie Quinton at the National Journal, BUILD looks for ninth graders who enter high school with socioeconomic disadvantages, poor grades, or disciplinary problems.

While the programming doesn’t necessarily raise grades, it encourages students to graduate high school and continue on to college. Last year, all high school seniors in the program enrolled in some type of higher education program. Beyond teaching academic fortitude, the program builds resumes, and participants gain a plethora of new skills, including the ability to work with people and manage a business. BUILD supporter Evan Burfield says,

“Few things are going to teach you grit, and force you to learn how to communicate, and teach you to persevere and to be more resourceful, than actually trying to build and scale a business.”

The program starts with a entrepreneurship 101 class in ninth grade. By the end of their freshman year, students are pitching their ideas to a panel of judges and starting in tenth grade, students meet with venture capitalists to find investors in their fledgeling businesses. High school seniors cash out of their businesses and receive support from BUILD staff in choosing and applying to vocational schools and colleges.

It’s a system that engages, equips, and empowers the next generation, teaching them how to succeed in the face of many obstacles. It’s a long-term approach to reducing high school dropout rates and poverty by equipping at-risk students. And it seems to be working.

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Photo courtesy of Anya Quinn.

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