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Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge Series Best Practices: Morton County

By: NetWork Kansas

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Morton County hosted its first-ever YEC Series event on December 12, 2018. Becki Richardson, EPICTOUCH Economic Development Director, Crystal Richardson, K-State Research and Extension Agent, and Vienna Lee, Morton County Economic Development Director, organized this event together. The Morton County E-Community team also worked closely with their NetWork Kansas Regional Manager, Simone Elder. Becki shares with us how Morton County organized an incredibly successful first-time event.

Key components:

·       Using key community members to mentor students

·       Incorporating best practices from the YEC Summit

·       Preparing judges to give students effective feedback

Morton County is a new E-Community with a smaller population but had 19 students involved this first year. They have two teachers involved with this program. One teacher teaches three classes and the other teaches two classes. All of their students are required to work on this project for a grade, but actually competing and presenting is optional.

After leaving the YEC Summit in June, the Morton County team felt encouraged about starting small. They felt they received great information from the panelists and that they were ready to implement in their community. They started with the mentorship aspect.

Becki, Simone, Vienna, and Crystal first visited the classrooms to talk to students about the event and why it could be of interest to them. After this initial session, they talked to key community members to set up mentoring for the students. These mentoring sessions took place every Tuesday during the students’ homeroom and lunch hour. (Homeroom occurs right before lunch). The students met in the library, interacted with that week’s mentor, and were provided lunch by the E-Community team.

“The mentors were all local entrepreneurs, to show the value of partnering community members with our youth,” Becki said.

The first mentor, Trent Boaldin, who works with EPICTOUCH, talked about having passion for your idea and turning it into a business. He also touched on the value of getting started young. Moe Houtz, Vice President at Heartland Tri-State Bank, focused on financials and their importance. Brian Mitchell, who owns Mitchell Theatres, is a local entrepreneur who moved away for college and then returned to the local area. Brian is also one of the largest landowners/farmers in the state of Oklahoma. Brian talked about the work and dedication that goes into entrepreneurship and the endless rewards it yields. Mindy Dougherty, with State Farm Insurance, spoke to the students about the importance of presenting yourself well. She emphasized proper dress, making eye contact, and other key components of a polished presentation.

Morton Co YEC Judges

Judges were also carefully selected. All judges had entrepreneurship ties and Becki believes that the city/county leaders need to see the value of this program. The judges were given background on the YEC Series and its purpose. Becki took the time to explain that their feedback was vital to helping the students get the most out of this learning experience.

Judges included Tim Hardy, entrepreneur and City Administrator; Jim Tucker, County Commissioner and Farmer; Laura Martin, entrepreneur; Brent McKinley, Chamber President; and Vernon Butt, Mason. All judges provided input and asked questions to students to help them improve their ideas. The judges’ passion really shone through.

For the first time, 19 students formed 12 businesses and competed in the Morton County YEC. They received mentorship and constructive criticism from judges that will help them refine their ideas going forward and will contribute to the future of Morton County!