CUYAHOGA FALLS — When Bret Holden was in high school, launching his own business never entered his mind.

"I struggled in high school," said Holden, who graduated from Firestone High School in 2003. "But I went to college, and failed out of Kent State." He added that he preferred hands-on activities to the classroom.

However, these roadblocks did not stop Holden from starting his own business, One T Entertainment in Cuyahoga Falls. One T Entertainment is a professional DJ and photo booth service.

Now, Holden is one of more than 40 community partners that will work with and mentor students who will be enrolled in a new entrepreneurial program that will be offered through the Six District Educational Compact.

"We can share our successes and failures," Holden said of himself and the others who have partnered for this program, called EntrepreNEW.

Holden said he had one wish, though: that something like this program had been offered when he was in high school.

"Had I been given an assessment, I wouldn't have gone into college at all," he said.

EntrepreNEW, an entrepreneurial education program developed by Woodridge Local School District, in partnership with the city of Cuyahoga Falls, Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the Six District Educational Compact, will start in the next school year, said Emily Knight, entrepreneurship educator at the Woodridge Local Schools.

"This will be the first career-technical education focused on entrepreneurship in the state," Knight said. "Up until now, districts have prepared for students wanting to go into college, traditional employment or enlisting, but there's been nothing for students who want to start a business. A lot of students have these ideas, but the schools have not serviced them."

Knight said the program would be two years, and would be aimed at juniors and seniors in the Woodridge, Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, Kent, Stow-Munroe Falls and Tallmadge school districts. So far, about 30 students have expressed interest, and applications will be taken through May 11. Knight said the first year will be capped at 25 students; in the second year, that will increase to 50 to accommodate those in the program and an influx of new students.

The EntrepreNEW program will allow students to earn seven high school credits – five in business, one in math and one in English — over the two years, Knight said.

This new program will be graded on a 5.0 scale rather than the traditional 4.0 scale, Knight said. There will not be traditional tests, but students will be evaluated on the mastery of entrepreneurial skills that will be taught by guest lecturers and on-the-job experience.

In addition, college credit agreements are being explored with several colleges at several colleges including Baldwin Wallace University, Case Western Reserve University, John Carroll University, Kent State University, and Lorain County Community College, Knight said.

Currently, there are 44 community partners, and "those partners will be working with the students," Knight said.

The city of Cuyahoga Falls has agreed to host classes at the Riverfront Pavilion, Knight said. The city is renovating the bottom level of the Pavilion building into a community classroom where this program will be held daily. One room, for example, will be turned into a greenscreen room. This room, she added, will also be available for community classes as well.

Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters said the program can help students with a variety of business interests.

"If something is a brick and mortar need, we have those," Walters said. "If it's online, I think we can find a contributor."

The Cuyahoga Falls Chamber of Commerce also is a community partner "to fill in the rest of the mentors and to find the expertise the students need," Knight said.

Another big advantage for prospective entrepreneurs taking the class is it will introduce students to a variety of area business people, allowing them to network, Knight said.

"It is designed to be incredibly personalized for them," Knight said. "If you talk to any young person, they have an idea but they don't have the support to take their idea, they don't have that bridge."

This program, she added, will provide that bridge.

Patrick Jebber, creative director for Monsters Unlimited in Cuyahoga Falls, a marketing agency and another community partner, said he hoped he could "foster and nurture the entrepreneurship dreams within" the students.

"In my business, we already work with students," Jebber said.

Those starting their own business "are creating something out of nothing."

"Seeing the progress in this program is exciting," he said.

In the future, the curriculum will be available to other districts who wish to start their own entrepreneurship program, Knight said.

"Part of the funding from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation is to create the model that districts can use," Knight said. "We will put it on our website in spring 2022."

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.

For details, visit or online.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423,, or @AprilKHelms_RPC