Forget the lemonade stand. Starting in August, more than 100 children in Cleveland will embark on formal entrepreneurial training, as the new Entrepreneurship Preparatory School sets to open its doors.
The 20,000 square-foot space, located in the Shore Bank Building in downtown Cleveland, will welcome 125 sixth-graders on Aug. 23.
The charter school is the brainchild of local software entrepreneur John Zitzner, who became involved with teaching entrepreneurship skills to inner-city students after selling his firm in 1998.
"I'm going to shake each student's hand and tell them they're going to college," Zitzner said in a statement. "That's what they're going to hear for seven years."
The school, dubbed E Prep , is an outgrowth of Zitzner’s E CITY (short for Entrepreneur: Connecting, Inspiring & Teaching Youth) after-school and summer program, which reaches out to 14- to 21-year-olds in lower-income communities.
While privately run by a board of directors, the charter school will be sponsored by the Cleveland Municipal School District. E Prep is partially funded by the state and federal government, but a gap of about $500,000 must be raised privately each year for the school to survive.
Following a two-week “culture camp,” students will receive 2,000 annual instruction hours, which is more than double the Ohio state minimum of 920. Classes are in session from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. year round, with a four-week break during the summer. The schedule may sound a bit harsh, but Zitzner says students will benefit the extra learning time.
"We need to spend more time to get these kids up to speed” in math and English, Zitzner said. “We start earlier, end later, and spend more time on task.”
By the time they graduate, E Prep students will have the foundations of a public-school education as well as an training on income statements, bank accounts, gross profit, and return on investment, as well as professional manners and presentation skills.
Zitzner has a 100 percent close rate when he pitches E Prep to the parents of potential students. Sixty students have already signed on.
"My question to other public schools is 'why don't you do this?'" Zitzner said. "We'll be a showcase — proving any kid can go to college."
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