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Alcoa Foundation Grant Provides Tuition Assistance for Young Entrepreneurs Academy Students
Jenny Woodbery
Monday, August 17, 2015

The Knoxville Chamber’s Partnership Initiatives Fund (PIF) has been chosen as the recipient of a $15,000 grant from the Alcoa Foundation. PIF is the Knoxville Chamber's Foundation which has a mission to support efforts to foster and promote economic development through educational and scientific projects enhancing area socio-economic well-being and the quality of life.

The grant will be used to reduce the tuition for students participating, as well as provide full scholarships to students who demonstrate need for the first two classes of the Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!).

“The generous grant from the Alcoa Foundation is validation that YEA! is an excellent program for fostering tomorrow’s business talent,” said Mike Edwards, president and CEO of the Knoxville Chamber. “We look forward to seeing the businesses our YEA! students will create this coming academic year.”

YEA! is a unique and innovative program that transforms local middle and high school students into real entrepreneurial successes. Beginning in October, 24 students from the Knoxville area will embark on a seven-month journey through the ins and outs of entrepreneurship.

The Alcoa Foundation grant will allow the Chamber program to offer seven students full-ride scholarships, and reduce the tuition from $395 to $160 for all other participants. The grant will be divided over the first two classes of the Knoxville program.

To date, 20 of the 24 students have been chosen for the program from around the region. The class ranges in age from 11 to 17 and the students represent 14 different schools within Knox County.

“The great thing about YEA! is that it gives students a chance to explore their passions,” said Lori Fuller, vice president of marketing and events at the Knoxville Chamber. “Some students have concrete business concepts coming into the program, others just have broader ideas of what they’d like to accomplish. Throughout the program these students will be able to work with mentors from the community to take those ideas and turn them into successful, real businesses.”

The program is presented by Pilot Flying J and hosted by the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business. In addition to the Alcoa Foundation’s investment in the program, Clayton Bank is also a supporting sponsor. The Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and Tech 2020 are also helping to produce the program.

YEA! requires students to attend three-hour classes over 30 weeks from October 2015 through April 2016. In this time, students will brainstorm and form their enterprises, make pitches to real investors, obtain funding, file their DBAs, and by the end, actually launch their own business or social movement.

Fuller said there are four more spots to be filled before the class is full.

“If you know a student who has an entrepreneurial spirit, encourage them to apply for this program,” she said. “What they’ll learn in YEA! will be invaluable.”

Visit www.knoxvillechamber.com/YEA for more information.

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