Consider it more “Think Tank” than “Shark Tank.” And rather than a panel of judges with opinions that can in a moment level everything you have created, mentors in their place work to help elevate you and your idea from theory to practice.
This past summer, more than 70 applications to the School of Leadership Innovation Creativity and Entrepreneurship (SLICE) were sorted through to identify the top candidates for a two week program co-founded by Todd LaVogue, teacher at The Conservatory School @ North Palm Beach, named one of the 15 Most Innovative and Inspiring Educators in America by Microsoft.
Lavogue has coordinated this summer program, which met from July 10-21 at the Lake Pavilion in downtown West Palm Beach with five other people who all share a passion for the convergence of entrepreneurship and education.
“It was wonderful to watch an idea between three friends, two years ago, become a reality,” LaVogue said.
At SLICE, students and mentors complete real-world projects with the potential to reshape the local landscape while developing the tools and networks to build their own businesses. The purpose of this summer program which ended up selecting 13 qualified candidates for the initial session was to create content and companies, not just consume information. For the students, most who came into this opportunity with working concepts of a potential product or business, can learn from a diverse group of mentors with a range of competencies and areas of expertise.
“I’m so proud of the students who spent two weeks of their summer break working on their entrepreneurial spirit by developing ideas, products and companies with the help of some volunteer professionals,” LaVogue said.
One of the most exciting results from this summer was eighth grader Bobby Butler, a student at The Conservatory School, who pitched an idea to the city of West Palm Beach to create an app that would help people navigate downtown West Palm Beach by foot or bicycle. Members of Mayor Jeri Muoio’s economic development team listened to the pitch and now want to assist in the creation of a city app that integrates an Augmented Reality overlay, helping visitors navigate must see locations throughout downtown.
And year two has more potential, as SLICE looks to boost the registry to 20 students.
“It will only grow and become better every year. While we will certainly experience growing pains, the hardest part is just getting it started. We have accomplished that and will now set bigger goals,” LaVogue said.
Young people realize they can create their own market rather than simply work in it, and are increasingly energized by the possibilities to take the future into their own hands. Across every campus, those ideas are increasingly nurtured, rather than dismissed by a patronizing guidance of saying, “nice idea, for a kid.”
LaVogue, who is one of 30 current TED Ed Innovative Educators in the world, believes there is more than some intrinsic value of guiding students to their full potential. He is developing the next generation of entrepreneurs.