Juvenile courts in Utah County have been swamped in recent months. Statistics show that more than 44 percent of all Utah 18-year-olds have had at least one encounter with the courts.
"That's why we are so enthusiastic about a program that has the potential of lighting a fire under these kids in a positive, exciting way and could be just the ticket for turning the tide on this serious problem," said Steve Densley, president of the Provo/Orem Cham-ber of Commerce.The program, called the Young Entrepreneur's School, accepts at-risk youth and teaches them the principles of starting a business and achieving success in personal and business life.
"These are our future employees," Densley said. "As more businesses relocate in Utah County, the competition for quality employees will be intense. If current trends continue, we'll lose this extraordinary asset."
Students of a Provo High School class called "Foundations" went through the first session of the course last week. Students were introduced to the elements necessary to become good entrepreneurs.
"Students designed a product or service and created a business plan around the product," said Rick Olsen, program coordinator and associate administrator at the Brigham Young University School of Social Work.
"They estimated costs and identified barriers and facilitators to success. Each student also identified personal strengths and weaknesses and learned how that would affect business success."
Students were taught that to be a successful entrepreneur, one must subscribe to the values of delayed gratification, honesty, follow-through on promises, hard work and commitment to learning, Olsen said.
"When the students started to create their businesses, they were totally absorbed and 100 percent on task. When it came time to leave, they wouldn't quit," Olsen said.
Now volunteers of the business community will go back to the class in two weeks to introduce the next step of the entrepreneurial process: the business plan and a step- by-step schedule for achieving each of their goals.
The one-year program consists of two full-day seminars and monthly follow-ups. The curriculum was developed by volunteers in the business community, Olsen said.
"We work with kids in a prevention program. We show them they have the power to change their destiny," Olsen said.
Collaborative relationships have been made with the Provo/Orem Cham-ber of Commerce, the BYU School of Social Work, the International Association of Families, the Utah County Division of Substance Abuse and local high schools.
Chamber members and other members of the community have been asked to donate time and financial support to the program.