Young Entrepreneurs Program Partners with New Haven Youth Tennis & Education and Dwight Hall to Engage New Haven Students

The Young Entrepreneurs Program (YEP!) launched its first Yale chapter in the spring of 2022. The organization, originally conceptualized as Young Entrepreneurs of Providence, was founded by three Brown University students in 2018. 

According to Audrey Shapiro, one of the organization’s co-founders, YEP! “is an entirely free entrepreneurship after-school program for high school and middle school students. Hosted at university campuses, YEP! teaches students key entrepreneurial skills and helps them create their own ventures. Our mission is to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs while forging stronger ties between universities and their local communities.”

To date, YEP! has expanded to include chapters at Yale, UC Berkeley, and Clark Atlanta University. At Yale, Ashley Kwak ’24, Stella Gray ’24, and Cole Kaufmann ’24 led the first “Day of Entrepreneurship” in April 2022 with students recruited from high schools in the New Haven area. They welcomed local entrepreneurs and organized workshops for students to explore challenges their communities face through a lens of entrepreneurship. 

In the fall of 2022, YEP! partnered with New Haven Youth Tennis & Education (New HYTEs) to launch its first incubator program for middle school students. New HYTEs serves students year-round with tennis, academic support, and life skills mentorship.

The six-week middle school program was held every Friday in Dwight Hall. Students were introduced to themes such as design thinking, business models, and public speaking. The program culminated in a “Pitch Night” where every student pitched a business idea in presentations to their peers, parents, and teachers. 

Pitch Night with New Haven middle school students

Scott Staniar ’85 , the CEO of New HYTEs, reflected on the partnership between YEP!, New HYTEs, and Dwight Hall: “We are grateful to be partnering with YEP! and Dwight Hall to inspire New Haven students to become future business leaders in their community. . .the entrepreneurial studies curricula developed by YEP! for middle and high school students perfectly aligns with our mission. Dwight Hall’s commitment to our students is also very valuable, as our students reap the benefits of Yale undergraduate and graduate volunteer mentors right on Yale’s campus.”

Below, Ashley, Stella, and Cole commented on what inspired them to become leaders of the Yale chapter of YEP!:

Ashley Kwak ’24: Community service has always had a large presence in my life, whether this was in the form of tutoring younger students in math or taking care of children at my local church. Coming to Yale, I knew I wanted to continue this path of volunteering in the New Haven community. After participating in an undergraduate entrepreneurship incubator during my first year, I became interested in entrepreneurship and wanted to find ways to get more involved on campus. As one of the leaders of YEP!, I have been able to spend my time at Yale integrating both aspects of community service and entrepreneurship. I feel so lucky to be able to work with an amazing team, a great group of students, and a supportive network of organizations every week during the school year! I can’t wait to see how much more YEP! will expand on Yale’s campus and in the greater New Haven community in the future.

Stella Gray ’24: I have always been passionate about entrepreneurship. I started my own e-commerce fashion business, GØØDZ, in 2020. Having discovered the excitement of turning an idea into a real business, I wanted to share this possibility with the larger community, and YEP! has allowed me to do this. The middle and high school students I work with at YEP! are eager to identify problems in their community and create solutions. Our weekly sessions are without a doubt a highlight of my semester. I am already looking forward to seeing what business ideas are created in the future! 

Cole Kaufmann ’24: After leading computer science programs for elementary and middle school students in my hometown, I knew that teaching was something that I wanted to continue at Yale. I had great experiences with other outreach and educational clubs at Yale but joined YEP! to provide a unique learning opportunity for students in New Haven. Starting a new program meant designing a curriculum on entrepreneurship, an interest I developed after working for a software start-up and finding I loved the fast-paced, problem-solving environment. I am excited to expand our club with the help of our amazing new members and to work with more students in the New Haven community!

YEP! at Yale has big plans for the spring 2023 semester, including launching a high school incubator program with the help of its twelve undergraduate members. The program hopes to continue providing a unique learning experience for New Haven students while also improving Yale’s relationship with its surrounding community. 

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