Academy of Entrepreneurship and Information Design students become innovative to succeed despite setbacks
The mission of the Academy of Entrepreneurship and Information Design (AEID) at Kecoughtan High School is to transform actively engaged students’ big ideas into real world experiences in entrepreneurship and marketing, world banking and finance, and information design. The goal is to prepare students for success in future careers and lifelong learning.
As we have faced a pandemic, students across the United States have collectively struggled to continue school and navigate through difficult times. However, a group of Kecoughtan AEID students has found innovative ways to provide for the future and graduate from high school simultaneously. Their path has not been straight. Rather, it’s been more like a roller coaster for some who are a part of families under duress. The pandemic has even caused many students to stop in their tracks and reflect upon their future path. Yet, this group of students in the AEID Academy has set wheels into motion to start their futures now.
Chris Fredericks, KHS academy principal and head of the AEID Academy says, “Entrepreneurship education keeps its focus on developing real-world skills that will assist students to lead exceptional lives in a rapidly changing world. The jobs of past generations that were relied upon are becoming increasingly unavailable, therefore graduating students ‘innovation ready’ through critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills is imperative for the future. It is predicted that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 have not been invented as of yet. Teaching students how to collaborate and work with a team, prepare effective presentations for speaking engagements, collecting and analyzing data, solving real world complex problems, and utilizing their curiosity and creativity to innovate is crucial for their life skills. “
Three students at KHS have taken the entrepreneurial spirit to heart. Senior, Harlem Norton, will graduate with an advanced studies diploma and has already been accepted to colleges including Old Dominion University. Senior government teacher and AEID team leader James Kimbrough says, “Harlem is an emotional and caring person that shows incredible empathy towards her fellow students. She has the maturity to coach them through challenges, and she is not afraid of the hard work required to help others find their own success.” In her sophomore year, Harlem launched a logo called Harlem’s World. The focus of the brand was on racial diversity and unity among students. Over the past two years, the logo has morphed into Harlem’s Fitness World. In Zoom sessions with peers and other participants, Harlem runs workout sessions and serves as an online personal trainer. She also has worked alongside her mother on Slay this Way Society. This development project was created to foster leadership skills in women and encourage them to succeed in the workplace. Harlem hopes to pursue a major in human physiology and nutrition with a minor in business.
Not all seniors have excelled in their grade point average, but they have overcome struggles to both graduate and become lucrative. Senior Kimayah Anthony became aware of the pressures the pandemic was placing upon her family. She took the initiative to start her own kiosk at Patrick Henry Mall in Newport News. She has been working diligently at the mall to sell t-shirts and other gear to mall patrons. Kimayah says she always wanted her own business. When she saw that she could make her way independently, she decided there was no time like the present to start. She is always on the go and pushing daily to finish her coursework and still make money. She hopes to propel her business on to future success in spite of the setbacks many small companies have faced during the COVID crisis. She sees a ray of hope in the future for herself and her peers.
Senior, Cameron Bowen, was drawn to the AEID Academy because he always had a keen interest in cybersecurity. Like many young people who are still refining their interests, he also pursued courses in technology. He thought he could meld his love for both fields together. When the pandemic hit, the need to hone his skills and earn money became very clear to Cameron. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Cameron has been working long days at Priority Toyota. When students were forced to go all virtual, he easily adapted. He picked up extra hours at work to help his family deal with COVID setbacks. The path has not been easy at all for Cameron. The good news is that he has the resiliency and focus to overcome any obstacle. Kimbrough, his government teacher, says, “I look forward to watching Cam continue to grow and develop. He will find success. It may not be the most direct route. Given all of his commitments, his ability to find a workable balance will allow him to impress anyone trying to juggle similar responsibilities.”
All three students say support of school and family are key to their success. It helps to have a perpetual cheering squad behind you. In an unprecedented school year that has been sink or swim for many students, these three students are examples of students who may have treaded water for a while, but they will finish the race as winners. In a year of despair, these students believe they will overcome and still achieve their dreams.The Academies of Hampton was launched to prepare students to be contributing members of our society. From Harlem’s World, which started as a way to spread racial equality and togetherness to Kimayah’s perseverance and daily commitment to running a business in person, our youth are the ray of light through the darkness.