YEA! program graduates 15 student CEOs

Courtesy photo Taking part in graduation ceremonies for the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneurs Academy are (from left): seated — Olivia DiPangrazio, Hunter Heaton, Benjamin Eckard, Mitchell Barton, Abraham Onkst, Caden Conaway and Kolton McGhee; standing — Saxton Smith, Elizabeth Fogle, Joshua Snowden, Jeffrey Guo, John Fiore, Graham Black, Elizabeth Manfred and Royce Boyd (YEA! Blair County program manager).

Fifteen local students in grades six through 12 representing 13 self-made businesses and social movements graduated from the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) on April 30 at The Casino at Lakemont Park, Altoona.

Throughout the 25-week program, students received the necessary tools to launch their very own IRS-registered business. Sessions included mentoring from industry experts, field trips and a “Shark Tank”-style event in which students pitched their business plans to local investors for financial backing.

The graduates of the 2019 class are: Abraham Onkst, Hollidays-burg Area High School; Benjamin Eckard, Hollidaysburg Area High School; Caden Conaway, Holli-daysburg Area High School; Edith Manfred, Holy Trinity Catholic Middle School; Elizabeth Fogle, Altoona Area High School; Graham Black, Altoona Area High School; Hunter Heaton, Hollidaysburg Area High School; Jeffrey Guo, Altoona Area High School; John Fiore, Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School; Joshua Snowden, Altoona Area High School; Kolton McGhee, Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School; Michael Montecalvo, Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School; Mitchell Barton, Holli-daysburg Area High School; Olivia DiPangrazio, Hollidays-burg Area High School; and Saxton Smith, Williamsburg Community High School.

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) is a 501(c)3 offering groundbreaking yearlong classes that teach middle and high school students how to start and run their own businesses.

Throughout the class, students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch their plans to a panel of investors for startup funds and launch and run their own, fully formed companies and social movements.

The project-based program empowers students to take charge of their futures.

Founded in 2004 at the Univer-sity of Rochester with support from the Kauffman Foundation, YEA! today serves thousands of students nationwide.

In 2011, the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation became a national sponsor and partner of the Academy to help celebrate the spirit of enterprise among today’s youth and tomorrow’s future leaders.