Noble Institute Brings Youth Entrepreneurship Program to Fort Smith

The second-annual Noble Institute from Noble Impact kicked off this week in Fort Smith, and event leaders hope to spur the kind of interest in youth entrepreneurship that has enveloped the central Arkansas startup scene over the past year.

Noble Impact is the nonprofit that partners with the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service to teach youth entrepreneurship through public service. It launched its Noble Institute program last summer to 32 students in Little Rock.

This year, 47 rising sophomores and juniors from Fort Smith schools (32 of them girls) are taking part in the four-day program held on the campus of UA-Fort Smith.

Noble Institute introduces high-schools students to Noble Impact's public service-influenced entrepreneurship program. Noble Impact's mission is to "engage students at the intersection of public service and entrepreneurship," and its Institute includes local mentors who share experiences and startup basics. 

Teams are formed around organizational ideas that need a solution. Team members collaborate and pitch their ideas for a solution to a panel of judges and community partners. Last year's winning team pitched a strategy to address truancy at a Little Rock high school.

"Students have great ideas," said Noble Impact co-founder Chad Williamson. "They can recognize issues that needs solutions. We just need to give them the tools they need."

Sydney Brazil is a 16-year-old rising junior at Little Rock's eStem High School and a member of the Noble Impact program. Noble Impact became a part of the official eStem cirriculum this past school year, where it was introduced to sophomores, juniors, and even third-graders.

Brazil used her Noble Impact education to launch a startup, gourmet donut hole maker The Hole Thing, and is using her experience as a youth founder to help mentor the students at this year's Institute.

"The Institute is a great way to to be introduced to the Noble Impact program," she said. "It inspires kids to get more involved in their community and also in the startup community."