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The Charles County Chamber of Commerce and the county public school system announced plans to launch the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a program run by Rochester, N.Y., nonprofit Young Entrepreneurs Academy, at the College of Southern Maryland in the fall.

The program at CSM will be the first by the nonprofit in Maryland, according to a chamber news release.

The academy takes students in grades 6 through 12 through the process of starting and running a real business.

Students work closely with local business leaders to cultivate and research business ideas, write a business plan, pitch their plan to a panel of investors, get funding, develop their brand, participate in a trade show at the end of the year and actually launch their business.

Through the program, kids 11 to 18 start as students and graduate as CEOs. By the end of the class, students own and operate businesses, which they may maintain after their graduation from the program.

“We are so excited to participate in the national movement of making experiential entrepreneurship education available to youth all across our country,” Betsy Burian, chamber executive director, said in the release. “This is how, as a society and as a nation, we’re ultimately going to change the world.”

“One of the most interesting components of the program is the actual behind-the-scenes knowledge the students are given from local business leaders, who were at one time standing in their shoes,” Kimberly A. Hill, Charles County school superintendent, said in the release. “The experience is something they will be able to apply to whatever field they choose to enter, thereby giving them the necessary skills to become future leaders of industry.”

According to the release, local professionals applaud the community’s collaboration and clear vested interest in the future of business in the area, and anticipate that the benefits of the program will reach far beyond the classroom.

Chamber President Craig J. Renner said, “We’re very proud to be the first chamber of commerce in Maryland to be able to offer this program to our students. We believe that fostering entrepreneurship among students in Charles County will help demonstrate that our county, and our chamber, have the best program for promoting economic development of any community in the State of Maryland. Most importantly, our members are excited about working with students who enroll in this program to help them create the bright future they envision for themselves in Charles County.”

“In the nine years we have offered the YEA! program, I have had the pleasure of seeing hundreds of students start their own enterprises that create value, whatever ‘value’ might mean to that particular student,” Gayle Jagel, the founder and CEO of the nonprofit, said in the release. “It’s amazing to see how powerful it is to instill an entrepreneurial mindset in a young person and watch how the lessons they learn in YEA! translate not only to a successful business career, but a successful transition to adulthood and the makings for a fulfilling, successful life.”

Jagel developed the YEA! program in 2004 while serving as the director of the Office of Special Programs at the University of Rochester.

In 2008, YEA! spun off from the university with help from the Kauffman Foundation, which is launching sites in colleges, universities and high schools across the country.

For more information, call 585-272-3535 or go to