Thirty years ago, Kentucky created the Governor's Scholars Program. Twenty-six years ago, the Governor's School for the Arts. Now, the Governor's School for Entrepreneurs.
The idea for this new summer program is the same as with the other two: identify high-potential high school students and bring them together to boost both their development and Kentucky's future.
The Governor's School for Entrepreneurs is now taking applications for the first class of 50 students who will attend a free program June 9-29 at Georgetown College. The deadline to apply is Feb. 15. For more information, go to: Gse.kstc.com.
Kentucky's economy needs more entrepreneurial thinking, said Kris Kimel, president of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp., which is creating the program.
"Increasingly, people are going to have to create their own jobs, figure out how to create their own value," he said. "Entrepreneurship is a way of thinking. It's a different mindset."
More young Kentuckians need the skills and mindset to start their own businesses, rather than assuming they will always work for somebody else, Kimel said.
This three-week program will include tours of innovative companies and talks by Kentucky entrepreneurs. Students also will hear from lawyers and other professionals who help entrepreneurs make their companies successful.
There will be a lot of teamwork time devoted to students' ideas for products or services that could be turned into companies. That will include learning about business plans, iteration, investment capital, production, sales, marketing and long-range strategy.
"The program will be all about creative thinking, critical thinking, innovative thinking," said Kimel, who in 2000 started the Idea Festival, an international creativity festival now held each September in Louisville.
The program is open to 9th, 10th and 11th graders in Kentucky's public or private schools. Students may apply as individuals or in teams by filling out an online application and submitting adult references.
They also must create a two-minute video explaining their idea for an innovative product or service, or why they would be suited to become part of a team that comes up with one.
One criteria that will not be considered for admission is a student's grades. After all, some of America's most brilliant innovators — from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates — didn't do well in school.
"Just because you're a 'C' student doesn't mean you're not incredibly smart," said Laurie Daugherty, the program's director. "Sometimes the personality types and thinkers who make the best entrepreneurs are the kids sitting in the back of the class not really engaged in the stereotypical classroom style of learning."
Daugherty has been traveling around Kentucky, speaking at high schools to attract applicants and raising money for the program among business people.
"There has been a lot of excitement about it," she said. "The first application was from a student in Louisville who already has a company and wants to learn more about how he can grow it."
KSTC has a $50,000 seed grant from the state Economic Development Cabinet. The rest of the estimated $200,000 needed for the program is being raised from businesses. There will be no cost to students.
Gov. Steve Beshear kicked off the fundraising effort recently by bringing 40 entrepreneurs and corporate leaders to Frankfort for a presentation.
"Business people get it," Kimel said. "I think they realize this is an important part of our future, our ability to create these kinds of people and companies and jobs."
Randall Stevens, who has started several companies in Lexington to develop innovative technology, is one of the entrepreneurs who will be teaching at the program.
"I'm a big believer in the educational process of how to become an entrepreneur," he said.
Part of that process is learning to be comfortable taking the calculated risks needed to succeed.
Part of the program's value will be creating a network of young Kentucky entrepreneurs going forward, Stevens said. He is trying to organize that kind of network among his fellow 24,000 graduates of the Governor's Scholars Program.
"I want them to leave with a good education," Kimel said of the first class of students in the Governor's School for Entrepreneurs, "but also with a sense of empowerment that I can do this, or I can think differently."
Governor's School for Entrepreneurs
About: Similar to the Governor's Scholars and Governor's School for the Arts programs, the Governor's School for Entrepreneurs looks to identify high-potential high school students to learn about becoming entrepreneurs.
Who: 50 students in the ninth, 10th and 11th grades in Kentucky's public and private schools will be selected.
When: Deadline to apply is Feb. 15. Program runs June 9-29 at Georgetown College. Students may apply as individuals or in teams.
Learn more: Gse.kstc.com