Each semester, students in Penn State Altoona’s Sheetz Fellows program participate in real-life projects to enhance their academic experience.
This year, three members who have a personal connection to the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) are using it as one of their team projects.
Jackson Boyer, Sam Fiore and Brad Shaffer are graduates of YEA!, a national program locally sponsored by the Blair County Chamber of Commerce. Through this year-long experience, students in grades six through 12 generate business ideas, conduct market research, write business plans, present to a panel of investors, and launch their own ventures.
Now in its seventh year here in Blair County, twenty-one area high school students are enrolled. Classes are held through May at the Sheetz Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence in downtown Altoona.
Boyer went through YEA! in 2017 as a freshman at Bellwood-Antis High School. He now has a double major in accounting and business with a major in financial services and a minor in entrepreneurship. “Being back with the YEA! program in a mentoring role is something I am honored to do and has been a great experience so far. To think that I could have a positive impact on the lives of these students and help prepare them for the business world is powerful.
Fiore also graduated from the academy in 2017 while at Bishop Guilfoyle Secondary School and majored in business with a focus on accounting and minors in entrepreneurship and economics. Shaffer, also of Bishop Guilfoyle, was in the YEA! class of 2018. He is majoring in business with a concentration in entrepreneurship.
As graduates of the program, Boyer, Fiore and Shaffer not only benefit from the experiences they have had through YEA! but as Sheetz Fellows to help students in the current class develop their business ideas and plans, offer advice, and guide them to success.
“I hope that through my role, I can help ignite the entrepreneurial spirit within the class and leverage their networking and problem-solving skills at the same time,” says Shaffer.
“Entrepreneurship is also about thinking outside the box and looking at the world in a different way,” adds Boyer. “While building their business is a big part of the program, I want to make sure they also use it as an opportunity to grow and build on the strengths they already have.”
As part of their project, the Sheetz Fellows are also creating a training program for future YEA! mentors and develop new marketing ideas to engage more students and raise awareness of the program. YEAH! meets once a week, and Boyer, Fiore, and Shaffer must complete progress reports for each class that include how the group is functioning, whether their goals are being met, and how they are making a difference.
Donna Bon is Director of the Sheetz Fellows Program and sits on the YEA! Steering committee. She explains that one of the goals of Sheetz Fellows is to give students the opportunity to practice what they learn in and out of the classroom.
“As a faculty member, you think you’re doing all the right things and teaching them the right way, but you don’t often see students putting it all into action. They lead by example by sharing what they’ve learned, and that’s really energizing for me.
Boyer, Fiore and Shaffer hope the students they mentor will continue down the path of entrepreneurship or business and consider Penn State Altoona and the Sheetz Fellows program.
“From the things I learned to the people I met and the experiences I had, none of this would have happened without YEA! Fiore said. “I want to foster deeper connections between YEA! and the Sheetz Fellows program because I have personally experienced the benefits of each. I hope students will explore both Penn State Altoona and the Sheetz Fellows program and realize the wonderful opportunities that exist here for them.