When the new Williamson County Entrepreneur and Innovation Center (EIC) opens on the campus adjacent to Franklin High School this fall, high school students will now have a unique opportunity to learn from the experience of leaders in the business community. In August, 130 students from across Williamson County Schools will participate in the inaugural semester. Now it’s time to recruit the mentors who will serve them.
“We’re looking for 200 business people who are willing to share their insights with students, on a number of levels – as instructors, as speakers and as advisors,” EIC Executive Director Dr. Kari Miller said. “Our objective is to represent the communities that all ten of our high schools serve, and to offer perspectives from a diversity of industries and walks of life.”
For students, the EIC represents a valuable opportunity for those in the ninth through the twelfth grades to gain hands-on experience in entrepreneurship and innovation by starting a business, launching a product, or offering a service. Accepted students will attend the EIC part-time each day, with the ability to gain high school credit through two unique entrepreneurship courses or to assist with a student entrepreneurial venture without earning high school credit.
Miller says she’s been impressed with the number of students who are already running successful businesses and are looking to take the next step, as well as those who recognize the shifting economy and emerging opportunities for the future.
“We’ve attracted the interest of students who are photographers, bakers, fashion designers and landscapers,” she said. “We’ve also heard from students who have ideas that could change the world. This is a wonderful opportunity for everyone involved, and we anticipate that our mentors will find as much reward in the experience as the students do.”
Mentors from the business community must complete a comprehensive survey, submit a resume and references, and undergo a background check to be considered for acceptance. A community-based business support organization, called the EIC Catalyst Network, is partnering with WCS leadership to bring the school district’s vision to life, and is assisting in the mentor recruitment process.
EIC Catalyst Network Board Chair Jay Chawan, managing partner of Brentwood-based office interiors company GBI, says the EIC is looking for representatives of industries ranging from technology to law, manufacturing, retail and beyond.
“The objective is to expose students to the realities of the business world, which is something most students traditionally don’t gain true perspective on until they enter the workforce,” Chawan said. “To that end, we want corporate leaders, small business owners, natives and transplants – a diversity of ages, backgrounds and experiences – to get involved.”
To learn more about the Catalyst Network or to apply to become a mentor, visit www.eiccatalystnetwork.org.
For more on the Williamson County Schools Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center, go to www.wcs.edu/district/departments/tla/eic/.