YEAH Showcases Youths’ Enterprising Business Ideas

You can't convince teens to take BART by telling them they're saving the environment, said the poised, neatly dressed young woman confidently in Arthur Andersen Auditorium. “Teens … want to be liberated from their parents. It’s not cool to be driven to a party.”

She should know: She’s in tenth grade. The teenager was among four groups of middle and high school students who presented their winning ideas from the Young Entrepreneurs at Haas (YEAH) program on May 2 during YEAH's end-of-year showcase event. Prizes ranged from $1,000, divided among older student teams, to store gift cards.

High school sophomores were charged with helping the Bay Area Rapid Transit District increase ridership among 13- to 17-year olds, its most reluctant customer base. The winning team's solution? Partner with some favorite retailers like Jamba Juice and H&M to offer a new BART On-Line for Teens ridership rewards card, cleverly called the BART BOLT card

In the ninth-grade competition, the winning team was selected by YEAH partner Otis Spunkmeyer for its proposal to join forces with Disney to offer a cookie mix with a Disney character cookie-cutter, plus icing and sprinkles for customizing the cookies.

Other winners included Atomic Totes cloth shopping bags, proposed by a group of seventh graders, and Team JVR, 11th graders who spent months carefully modeling how a 17-year-old girl from a hypothetical working-class family could afford to go to either a community college or a competitive out-of-state university.

This year, YEAH matched 103 mentors — mostly Berkeley MBA students but also some Haas undergrads — with 140 middle school students and 135 high school students, all from public schools. To be eligible for YEAH, the students must be the first in a low-income family to go to college and have average grades. YEAH is launching a pilot summer program called the UC Berkeley Business Academy in June for students who don’t quite fit those criteria; its fees will help fund the nonprofit YEAH program (

YEAH mentors work an astonishing 120 hours per middle school student and 76 hours per high school student, teaching computer skills, financial literacy, and business concepts throughout the year.

The experience benefits mentors and students alike, emphasizes Jennifer Delgadillo Bevington, executive director of YEAH. “YEAH is also really about experiential learning,” she says. “What better way for Haas students to know they have really learned something than to teach it to someone else.”