January 4, 2012
Central Entrepreneur Brings Business Academy to Elkhart
Elkhart Central High School senior Halle Hill should be starring in “The Apprentice," the popular reality television show that has aspiring business men and women competing to become host Donald Trump's business apprentice.
Halle has the necessary drive, determination, and creativity to not only compete on the show, but also to perhaps hear the infamous words "You're hired!"
Halle who wants to run her own business one day, took a huge leap forward in her endeavor by taking the lead in bringing the Young Entrepreneurs Academy to Elkhart. The YEA! program, which takes students through the entire business creation process, will begin in January with up to 24 members.
After reading about YEA! on the Internet, Halle was so enthused with the program she called the New York-based organization to inquire about starting a chapter in Elkhart. She was told to send in a start-up application and to find a local sponsor.
She approached the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, which agreed to sponsor a local YEA!. Jeffery Dean, director of Career Services at Harrison College in Elkhart, signed on as program manager, and the Elkhart Chamber and ECS officials have been recruiting local businessmen and women to volunteer as YEA! instructors and mentors.
Halle, who plans to major in international business at Indiana University, is an extremely hard worker. In addition to her involvement with YEA!, she is a member of Central's National Honor Society, the Superintendent's Student Advisory Council, Student Council, PEERS, mentoring, and community theatre with Premier Arts. She is also ranked first in her class with a 4.0 grade point average, and she has been award the full-tuition Wells Scholarship from IU.
Halle and Trudy Battjes, School to Work coordinator and leader of the YEA! effort at Central, have spent the past several months promoting YEA! and recruiting students to apply.
Battjes said she was initially worried they wouldn't be able to fill the academy's 24 available spots, but that interest in the program has been overwhelming. More than 100 Central and Memorial students have indicated they plan to apply for the entrepreneurship academy.
Each applicant must write an essay outlining his or her entrepreneurial characteristics, submit a copy of their high school transcript, and ask a teacher, counselor, or community leader to write a letter of recommendation. A panel of school and chamber officials will conduct interviews to determine which 24 students will participate in the first Elkhart YEA!.
The deadline to submit an application is Jan. 17. There is a membership fee to join the academy, but financial scholarships are available to those in need.
Halle Hill, right, turns in her YEA application to Trudy Battjes, School to Work Coordinator at Central High School
The academy will meet at Central High School on Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. beginning in Jan. 25, and on some Saturdays as well. Students will study the business creation process, brainstorm ideas, write business plans, pitch their plans to potential investors, and launch and run their own business or non-profit organization.
Along the way, students will meet local entrepreneurs, business leaders, attorneys, accountants, marketing professionals, and other professionals involved in start-up companies.
Halle said the academy is for any Elkhart student "who has an interest in bringing their dream to life." She said some past academy students have used their businesses to fund their college tuition or start a new service organization in their community.
"You have to be willing to work hard," she noted. "You have to be dedicated to your idea and to YEA! for your business or non-profit to succeed."
And while she's comfortable with hard work, she's already figured out she doesn't want to work for somebody else. "I want to run my own company," she said, adding she also wants to run her own not-for-profit organization.
For YEA, she plans to create a business plan for her charitable organization, which she describes as a home for children who have been exploited. Halle's non-profit will purchase an older home, refurbish it, and solicit sponsors to cover the cost of housing a child there.
She would then seek teachers, counselors, and medical personnel to volunteer some of their time at the home, meeting the needs of the child residents.
“This is something I'm really passionate about," Halle said. "I want to focus my efforts on getting children out of dangerous environments and into a home with people who love them and care for them and give them a better quality of life."
Halle said her altruism stems from her own upbringing, her faith, and the satisfaction she has received from former charitable endeavors. For example, while researching unusual holiday customs for a school newspaper story last year, Halle came across information on Movember, an international event where men don't shave during the month of November.
Intrigued by the concept, Halle turned it into a fundraiser. She convinced several teachers and male students at Central to forgoe shaving for a month to promote awareness of National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and to collect donations for cancer research.
The event raised more than $1,000 for the American Cancer Society. "I felt so good about that, how I was able to make a positive difference," Halle said. “I took it to heart. I realized this is something I want to do—make a difference in peoples’ lives."
Kathy Cardwell, the Elkhart Chamber’s vice president of administration and education council liaison, said she did a great deal of research on YEA! after learning about the organization from Halle. “After visiting YEA!'s Web site and seeing two of my American Chamber of Commerce Institute colleagues' letters of endorsement for the YEA! Program that they were already running in their communities, I was able to contact them for advice," Cardwell said. "I also attended a conference in L.A. last summer for American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) that presented the YEA! Program as well and learned a great deal more."
Cardwell said she was impressed with all she heard about YEA! and believed it would provide a benefit to the Elkhart community. Along with Halle and Battjes, Cardwell has been in the schools and out in the community promoting the new initiative.
“It’s going to be a great program,” Cardwell stated. “Our local students are going to obtain a wealth of valuable information about starting their own businesses and then have the opportunity to take what they have learned and put it into practice. It’s going to be fun to watch the students, to see how their ideas blossom into actual businesses.”
[Go back to this issue's headlines to access other stories.]