CUYAHOGA FALLS — Students from six area school districts who are interested in learning how to launch a business can enroll in a new Entrepreneurship Academy next school year.

The Woodridge Local School District, in partnership with the city of Cuyahoga Falls, the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the Six District Educational Compact, will launch the entrepreneurship program.

The program will be housed at Woodridge High School, but it will also be open to students from Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, Kent, Stow-Munroe Falls and Tallmadge participating in the Six District Compact.

"This program is a phenomenal opportunity for students in the Six District Educational Compact to work together and gain first-hand experience developing and operating a business," said Emily Knight, Entrepreneurship Educator, at Woodridge Local Schools. "They will learn new life skills that will prepare them to succeed in whatever future endeavor they choose."

The entrepreneurial program is a career-technical education program for students who are interested in learning about creating their own business. As part of the program, students will work with the city of Cuyahoga Falls and entrepreneurs throughout Northeast Ohio to create, design, plan and prepare to launch a business. The program will focus on mentorship, grassroots entrepreneurship, trade-based entrepreneurship, resiliency, adaptability and changing workforce needs.

Samantha Booth of the Impact Group said that classes will be offered starting in August 2020.

"Students will be a part of the program for two years - the junior and senior year," Booth said. "They will meet as part of the regular school calendar. While it will be a school program, it will be housed most days in the city of Cuyahoga Falls Riverfront Parkway area. Students will work with entrepreneurs from the region that will serve as guest teachers, workshop style. Then, work with mentors in person and electronically as they work to build their own business plans, more of a regular class structure."

Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters said that the city was "both proud and excited to join the collaborative partnership for young entrepreneurs to help engage, inform, and encourage our future business leaders."

"We are looking forward to housing such an innovative program that will engage our schools, local business community, and local government so that we can all work together to mentor and develop our students in the spirit of economic development and community engagement," Walters said.

The Burton D. Morgan Foundation of Hudson is investing $250,000 into the program over the next three years with the Morgan Scout Fund grant. The grant will fund the local program and the creation of a website where content will be open and free for other educators to emulate the program that Woodridge is creating. Also, the grant will fund the development of stand-alone lessons to embed entrepreneurship into career-technical education programs.

"On behalf of the superintendents of the Six District Educational Compact, I want to express our gratitude to The Burton D. Morgan Foundation for this extraordinary Morgan Scout Fund grant to the Woodridge Local School District," said Mary Jane Stanchina, executive director of the Six District Educational Compact. "This will allow students in the other Compact districts to experience an innovative approach to the application of knowledge with an entrepreneurial project.

"This program is one of the outcomes of the Compact Plan for the Future, which was finalized in June 2019," said Stanchina. "This Plan will guide the development and implementation of other innovative and in-demand workforce development programs in the Six District Educational Compact for the next three years."

Woodridge Superintendent Walter Davis said that the district was "excited to add yet another outstanding career-technical education option for students in the Six District Education Compact High Schools."

"This program, focusing on entrepreneurship, will provide a new and innovative opportunity for our students," Davis said. "The instructor, Mrs. Emily Knight, has a long track record of creating engaging experiences for her students including meaningful partnerships through connections with regional and local business and governmental leaders. We look forward to the start of this amazing experience for our students and thank the Burton D. Morgan Foundation for their support of the initiative."

Recent surveys and research regarding the American workforce and how schools can best prepare their students for the future led to the program’s development. The research indicates that rethinking education to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset and provide real-world learning experiences will bring together students, parents, educators, employers and other stakeholders to ensure that all students have the skills needed for life and learning after high school and beyond. A World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report list those needed skills as complex problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity while a recent national survey commissioned by the Kauffman Foundation also found that employers ranked communication, problem-solving, time management and self-management skills higher than subject-matter knowledge.

Research also indicates that more than half of adults, including parents, believe high school graduates are not "career-ready," and this program will help address that issue to make sure our education system is relevant to the demands of the labor market, which is expected to be more entrepreneurial than traditional in the future.

There are multiple ways for businesses and entrepreneurs to get involved in this innovative program. Businesses interested in working with the entrepreneur program should contact Knight at Woodridge Local Schools, at eknight@woodridge.k12.oh.us for more information.

The grant is among $1 million for initiatives to promote entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education in Northeast Ohio. The grants were approved at the September meeting of the trustees of the foundation.

The grant also is one of two of the foundation’s grants from the recently launched Morgan Scout Fund, designed to support experimental programs. The other one — for $50,000 — goes to the University of Akron Research Foundation’s pilot accelerator that will help business startups with projects that are "hard tech," any physical product or component based on technology.

The aim of the accelerator will be to provide the startups with help on commercializing their products, getting them ready for the marketplace.

Burton Morgan Foundation President and CEO Deborah Hoover said the Morgan Scout Fund was created as a way "for our organization to be more entrepreneurial in how we deploy our dollars in the community."

Additional grants approved by the foundation trustees to benefit organizations supporting innovation and entrepreneurship included:

• Akron SCORE Chapter 81 - $70,000 to support operations of the Akron SCORE office for two years

• Entrepreneurial Engagement Ohio - $62,750 to support STEM Entrepreneurship and Innovation forums in Northeast Ohio for two years

• Ideastream (operator of WVIZ/PBS and 90.3 WCPN) - $50,000 for the development of the Making It video series

• Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET) - $100,000 to support the third cohort of Scalerator manufacturing companies.

• National Inventors Hall of Fame - $189,800 to support Camp Invention and Invention Project programming

Other grants for entrepreneurship initiatives approved by the Trustees in the interim period between meetings include:

• Boys Hope Girls Hope of Northeastern Ohio – $3,500 for professional development, field trips to entrepreneurial activities, and program supplies

• Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in Cuyahoga Falls - $4,600 to coordinate and implement Hack ‘19

• Summit Artspace - $10,000 to support Artist as an Entrepreneur Institute

• The University of Akron Foundation - $20,000 to develop digital course materials for the Entrepreneurship Teacher Institute

Foundation trustees also approved the following grants to benefit the Hudson community:

• Hudson Heritage Association - $250 for a Preservationist membership

• Hudson Library & Historical Society - $250 for books for children and teens

• Hudson-Landsberg Sister City - $5,000 for the 2019 Christkindlmarkt event in Hudson

• Music from the Western Reserve - $3,000 for operating support

The foundation also made a special grant to Barberton Community Foundation for the city of Barberton’s Disaster Relief Fund.

Morgan, who died in 2003 at the age of 86, founded Morgan Adhesives, now known as MACtac in Stow. He began his philanthropic organization in 1967; the foundation’s mission to champion the entrepreneurial spirit.

A complete list of grants awarded can be found by visiting the Foundation’s website at http://www.bdmorganfdn.org/grants-awarded.

Reporter Katie Byard of the Akron Beacon Journal contributed to this report.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, ahelms@recordpub.com, or @AprilKHelms_RPC