Minneapolis charter school Venture Academy (VA) opened the doors this summer to 115 ‘Trailblazers’ seeking an alternative to the traditional educational path.
The difference, explains VA co-founder Jon Bacal, is entrepreneurship — a concept inherently absent from a publicly subsidized system collapsing under the weight of its own fail.
“Venture’s mission is to ignite the passion of all young people to become innovators and entrepreneurial leaders who will change the world. Venture seeks to enable young people to achieve unprecedented learning growth, demonstrate character and leadership and learn to imagine opportunities, take initiative and create solutions.”
To serve their Trailblazers in grades 6-12, VA has assembled a team of one dozen coaches, including Bacal and his partner Kerry Muse. Eric Nelson, known for the Kid To Pro initiative, has joined VA as ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ alongside board member Scott Davis, to oversee the technology and entrepreneurship aspects of the environment.
Using refurbished laptop computers obtained through Minnesota Computers for Schools, the Trailblazers are learning a variety of skills relevant to the world as it is today, not as it once was.
The digital media class includes training in audio, video and photography using both hardware devices and software. The computer science cluster, comprised of two 12 person groups, is learning how to build websites in HTML/CSS, with an introduction to the basics of PHP programming. A makerspace with woodworking tools, toolboxes, and a 3D printer is also is in the works.
“These three cross-functional teams will be working together to learn what entrepreneurship is about firsthand by doing. Their mission is to design, develop, market and sell a technology product with commercial potential.” Nelson says.
“This is the very essence of real world business skills.”
“Just as there’s ‘lean startup’, we’re doing ‘lean learning’ — that is — try, measure, learn, iterate. While this is the most intense thing I’ve ever done in my life, it’s already the most rewarding,” Bacal admits. “I love this.”