INEZ, Ky. — Last month, students at the Sheldon Clark High School in Inez, gathered in the school cafeteria to learn about a new opportunity titled “Youth Microenterprise”, an initiative that will target high school seniors to help boost local economic development.
This project is a welcome chance for youth to exploit their idealism and energy, and to break out of the cycle of poverty embedded in their community. The program, sponsored by the Rockin’ Appalachian Mom Project (RAMP), will support high school seniors interested in starting their own small business. At the end of the year, students will submit business plans and loan applications, and up to four microloans of $2,500 to $4,000 will be awarded to the top proposals. Students who participate must maintain a 3.0 GPA and participate in seminars to remain eligible for the loan. Once awarded, RAMP will continue to work closely with the loan recipients throughout the first year of their business venture.
Students are crucial to addressing the cyclic poverty embedded in Martin County, where less than 10 percent of adults over the age of 18 hold a bachelor’s degree. The no-interest loan and hands-on support provide a unique opportunity for seniors – who otherwise would have little access to startup funding and training – to really embrace the idea of starting a new business. In addition, Whole Foods Market has promised to purchase goods produced through the program and make them available at stores throughout the middle-Atlantic region.
The students are already showing enormous promise. At the project launch, RAMP Founder Amy Guerrieri and Director of Development Candace Sword gave an interview for the program, and gauged interest by asking students to submit initial ideas for small businesses. Students appeared very excited and suggested approximately twenty technology, retail and other business type ideas. One group of students even presented a commercial for their proposal.
RAMP is thrilled with the early response to the program, and stated in a press release that they were looking forward to helping high school seniors spur economic development in Martin County.
To learn more about the program or how you can become involved, you may visit their website at www.rampamerica.org, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.