Young CEOs: Entrepreneurship in Schools Possible

by Mark Carter  on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 10:44 am  

Josh Moody (left) and Michael Paladino of Overwatch show off their app at the ARK Challenge Demo Day. Moody, a senior at Catholic High, participated in a young CEO panel discussion Thursday in Little Rock. (Photo by Beth Hall)

Introducing entrepreneurship into the standard high school curriculum is possible and ultimately inevitable, according to participants in Thursday night's young CEO panel discussion hosted by the Arkansas Venture Center at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The panel included Little Rock Christian Academy junior Natali Hall, who created the online literary forum; David Allan and Sreesh Reddy, both seniors at Hendrix College and co-founders of Acorn Hours, a startup that tracks student community service hours; and Josh Moody, a senior at Little Rock's Catholic High School and co-founder and CEO of Overwatch, a combat gaming app.

Moderated by Roby Brock of Talk Business, the panel discussion represented the fourth night of Global Entrepreneurship Week in central Arkansas. The week opened with a women's founders panel on Monday; a demostration of the planned maker space at the Argenta Innovation Center was held on Tuesday; and a lean canvas workshop was held Wednesday night at South on Main.

A free founders party at 6 p.m. Friday from the Rev Room in the River Market will cap the week's events.

The young founders who spoke on Thursday believe the recent momentum for youth entrepreneurship will only increase. In addition to the work of the panelists, Little Rock's Noble Impact is teaching a course at eStem High School about public service through entrepreneurship and even took a team of eStem students to the recent Startup Weekend Northwest Arkansas.

There, the students created Passion Pull, a startup that aims to help students identify and pursue their passions.

Plus, the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation annually hosts the Youth Entrepreneurship Showcase, business-plan competitions for students in grades 5-8 and 9-12, and Sparkible offers after-school entrepreneurship programs for high school students. 

Moody took Overwatch to the ARK Challenge accelerator in Fayetteville that ran over the summer and into the fall, and his startup was named one of three winners. He worked a deal with Catholic High to begin his senior year remotely. In a sense, Moody introduced entrepreneurship into the Catholic High cirriculum, if on a limited scale, and the school is open to future arrangements with other students.

"In the future, there's definitely an opportunity to incorporate it into a high-school cirriculum," Moody said. "If there's an interest, I don't see any downside to an entrepreneurship elective." 

Allan, who with Reddy led Acorn Hours (formerly known as Simple Service) to a win at Startup Weekend Little Rock in April, stressed that entrepreneurship can't be taught in the same way as other subjects.

"You can't teach entrepreneurship like you teach physics," he said. "You can't teach it from a book. You have to create an environment where ideas can come forth."

Allan said entrepreneurship students would need access to mentors and the right kind of space and technology. 



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