Program to begin in St. Francois, Washington Counties
The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Southeast has received a three-year grant to promote both youth and adult entrepreneurship in 12 southeast Missouri communities.
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., March 3, 2010 — The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at Southeast Missouri State University has received three-year funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to promote both youth and adult entrepreneurship in 12 communities in southeast Missouri, beginning with three in St. Francois and Washington counties.
The SBA program, titled the Revitalizing Rural Communities Initiative (RRCI), was the topic of guest presentations by CIE staff in February at meetings of the Chambers of Commerce in both Farmington and Potosi, Mo.
“This is an exciting initiative that will bring high school students, current business owners and would-be entrepreneurs together for a common goal,” said Gina Harper, RRCI project coordinator and training coordinator for the CIE. “In the participating counties, the common theme is a community vegetable garden, coupled with Operation Jump-Start. In future communities, there is no limit to the type of new projects that the communities will come together and complete.”
Harper said that the current three communities participating in the initial RRCI project are: Potosi, Farmington and Cadet, Mo.
“Each high school principal has enthusiastically embraced the RRCI project as a practical, small business learning project for their students,” she said.
In addition to writing the business plan for the sustainability of the gardens, the students are responsible for managing their garden, scheduling community volunteers, and strategizing ways to sell the vegetables or donate them to local food pantries and the underserved community citizens. At the end of the growing season, she said, the students are responsible for harvesting the garden and planning for next year. Local teachers are the champions for the students and are guiding them through the business plan process, Harper said.
In addition, RRCI funding allows an internship stipend for one to two students to work this summer at area small businesses.
“The local high schools appreciated this aspect as it fits well with their own student/work initiatives,” Harper said.
Nathan Hostetler, principal at Potosi High School (PHS), said that PHS has been a High Schools That Work (HSTW) site for two years, and involving members of the community to extend students’ learning beyond the classroom is what HSTW strives to achieve.
“Under the leadership of our agriculture teacher, George Gross, our students will have the chance to put together a business plan, put that plan into action, and benefit from the fruits of their labor,” Hostetler added. “These kinds of projects can be invaluable to everyone involved, and we at PHS couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this one.”
East Missouri Action Agency (EMAA) of Park Hills, Mo., is a partner in the RRCI project, providing seeds, plants, garden supplies and equipment to each high school. This project is funded in whole or part with federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds received from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provided by the Missouri Department of Social Services, Family Support Division. The funds received from the Family Support Division are all federally funded. The one-year grant funding from ARRA is to establish the gardens in each of EMAA’s eight counties. Additional ARRA monies will be used as start-up grants for the graduates of Operation Jump-Start who win its business plan completion and open or expand their small businesses.
“Gardening itself promotes a more active lifestyle,” said Janey Radford, EMAA community resource development specialist. “For those who do not have access to fresh foods or who simply cannot afford to eat healthy, I firmly believe these gardens will help them make better food choices and will have a long-term, domino effect on their overall well-being.”
Radford said current statics show that 18.7 percent of Missourians receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program); higher than the national average of 12.9 percent. Also, Radford said that for every $1 invested in a community garden, over $6 worth of vegetables are produced.
“I think it is a wonderful opportunity for our students to get some real world experience in working as part of a team to write a business plan and see that plan through,” said Matt Ruble, principal of Farmington High School.
Currently, more than 70 students are involved in the garden projects. They will solicit the help of additional volunteers to work in the gardens this summer. Mentors also are needed to assist with the business planning process for both the students and the adults in the six-week small business training class, Operation Jump-Start.
For more information about the programs, or if you would like to hire a paid, high school intern for a couple of weeks this summer, or wish to volunteer as a mentor or garden assistant, contact (573) 651-2940 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.