Ohio Debuts Initiative To Encourage Students To Become Entrepreneurs

Ohio has proposed a new statewide program designed to develop young entrepreneurs in science, technology, engineering and math and encourage students to pursue careers in those fields.

The program, Believe in Ohio, will introduce high school teachers and students to STEM research and development and venture programs through online and in-class programs and regional forums. The program will begin next year following the approval on November 25th of $5 million in funding by the State Controlling Board, writes Karen Farkas of The Plain Dealer.

The first forum, which will include scientists, researchers and practitioners, will be held February 22nd at Hudson High School, which is in the northeast region, one of six established in the state for Believe in Ohio. Each region has an affiliated nonprofit that cultivates entrepreneurship. JumpStart Inc. is the program organizer for Northeast Ohio.

Universities will be asked to work with schools in their region and develop online courses that outline STEM and entrepreneurial opportunities for students. In addition, a statewide STEM mentoring network and teacher support program to connect students with "real-world" mentors is also planned.

The Ohio Academy of Science will be the lead agency overseeing the program. The funding, good for two years, was part of the Ohio Board of Regents budget.

Believe in Ohio evolved from a collaboration between the Ohio Board of Regents and Entrepreneurial Engagement Ohio, a nonprofit organization created a few years ago in Northeast Ohio by Julian Earls, retired director of the NASA Glenn Research Center and executive-in-residence at Cleveland State University and John Klipfell, a retired American Greetings senior executive.

They operated several STEM entrepreneurial programs in high schools and wanted to develop a statewide program, but realized they needed to affiliate with other agencies. About the same time, the Board of Regents outlined its focus on the need for STEM education in its recent commercialization task force report and said a pathway was needed between secondary education and higher education.

Earls and Klipfell met with Vinny Gupta, the regent heading the commercialization task force, and legislators in 2012 to convince them their organization could expand its existing successful program statewide, and that the Ohio Academy of Science had the expertise to run it. They also worked with NorTech.

In January, a presentation about the proposed Believe in Ohio was made to the Board of Regents. Legislators included $5 million for a Youth STEM Commercialization and Entrepreneurship Program in the regents budget.

Believe in Ohio is a free new program to help prepare Ohio high school students for the future by introducing them to the innovation economy of Ohio and inspiring them to pursue their STEM educations and careers in the state. The program also encourages students to become the innovators and entrepreneurs that Ohio needs to help develop and the new products and services of the future, according to Believe in Ohio's website.

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