By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE – The first free teen entrepreneurial program launched its inaugural class June 18 to provide teens with the motivation and practical tools to unleash their inner business builder.
Founded by motivational speaker and life coach Tunishai Ford, the STEP UP program – Stimulate Teach Empower Potentially Upcoming Professionals – is offered free through the non-profit Your Own Uniqueness.
The inaugural class of teens, who submitted essays about their entrepreneurial ideas to be considered, will meet for 11 weeks this summer on Mondays at the Southgate Veterans Memorial Library, 14680 Dix Toledo.
Ford launched the program with her signature enthusiasm, excited to be among teens eager to learn, and the volunteer mentors and teachers.
“This is a day we have waited about eight months to come to fruition,” she said June 18. “The goal of the STEP UP program is to go to all Downriver cities and bring our youth who have a desire to start, run and sustain a business.”
Students at the first meeting represented Lincoln Park, River Rouge, Southgate, Taylor, Westland and Wyandotte.
Ford said youth are our future, and while they may not be sure what they want to do, they have the desire to learn, and she has a great group of volunteer teachers and mentors.
“Every one of you are making history with me,” Ford said. “This is the first time an entrepreneurial program is being done Downriver for our youth. You have something to be proud of.”
Entrepreneur Aaron Jackson said it is important when you are young to have people to cultivate and encourage your talent.
“Your most important tool is your mind,” Jackson said. “Before you could believe in this program, you had to believe in yourself.”
Jackson said the STEP UP program will change their lives.
“We are not going to teach you to run a business, we are going to teach you how to run your business,” he said. “We don’t want to just give you some basic skills. We want to make those specific to what you want to do.”
Jackson said the key is empowering students.
“I want you to be able to walk into school in August or September and say, ‘I’m running my own company,’” he said. “I am not going to tell you about my summer job, but I will give you a job if you need one.”
For more information about the STEP UP program, call 734-285-2041, send an email to [email protected] or go to drtford.com.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)