Youth Leadership Development Program Lifts Teens’ Aspirations

Although they have yet to graduate from high school, the teenagers in the Young Entrepreneurs at Haas (YEAH) program are getting the attention of executives at places like Gap Inc. and the Oakland Zoo. Students proudly presented their projects and accomplishments at the program's year-end showcase May 7.

In the only year-round program of its type in the nation, YEAH takes low-income, academically average students who will be the first in their families to attend college and helps that happen. Haas undergraduate, MBA, and PhD students teach teenagers life skills such as leadership, time management, and teamwork; guide them as they put together business plans and case studies; and help them prepare for SATs and college applications.

YEAH organizes after-school business clubs at five middle schools in Berkeley, Oakland, and Albany. YEAH also offers an intensive on-campus program for high school students that includes a summer academy and three-hour Saturday sessions that meet monthly in the fall and twice monthly in the spring. About 250 students participate each year.

“YEAH meant a lot to me,” says Jordan Brown, of Angelo Rodriquez High School in Fairfield. “I learned how to speak in public, met a lot of people and encountered a lot of new ideas. It’s really broadened my horizons.”

YEAH boasts impressive results: 100 percent of the high school seniors who participate in YEAH graduate from high school and are accepted into college. Brown will attend San Francisco City College, with her ultimate goal a career in international law.

At the May 7 showcase, seniors participating in the new RISE (Responsibility Inspires the Strive for Excellence)@YEAH program highlighted the findings of their Gap Inc. case, in which they recommended how to better promote Old Navy’s corporate social responsibility efforts through social media.

In another project, Berkeley undergraduate students in Lecturer Frank Schultz’ strategy class acted as CEOs for teams of YEAH seniors, who underwent a simulated eight-year business cycle in their Senior Capstone Experience. Brown, the Fairfield student, was on the winning team, which she says had a more aggressive strategy than the other teams, resulting in a stock price more than $200 higher than their nearest competitor.

The program’s freshmen also presented a case study: a market analysis of the Oakland Zoo expansion in which they learned about business planning for nonprofits and came up with interpretive ideas.

“The path to college these days is a navigational feat for students whose parents have been there. For a population of students who would be first in their family to go to college, it can be overwhelming," says YEAH Executive Director Jennifer Bevington. "YEAH not only makes the path clear, Haas students help high schoolers develop the skills and inspiration to get there, to the benefit of both the students and Berkeley-Haas."