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Chamber of Commerce supports young entrepreneurs with donation

Date: 4/20/2009

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM -- Minnechaug Regional High School's Youth Entrepreneurial Scholars (Y.E.S.) Program benefitted from the generosity of those already in business last week when Hampden/Wilbraham branch of the East of the River Chamber of Commerce donated a check for $6,200 to the program.

The donation came from the sixth annual Hampden/Wilbraham Golf Tournament, which took place on Oct. 3, 2008. This year's tournament will take place on Oct. 2 at the Country Club of Wilbraham.

"To date, we've donated close to $40,000," Elissa Langevin, a member of the Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of last year's tournament, said.

The donation will be used to purchase eight computers for the Y.E.S. program.

Joanne Weisser, an entrepreneurship teacher at the high school, said the program has grown greatly and has become a popular class at the school since it began a decade ago.

"We're trying to build our business programs," Weisser said. "With this economy, we find students are excited about [the prospect of] starting their own business."

One entrepreneurship class was offered for the fall semester; three are currently in session. The winners of the fall business plan competition were Nichole Patterson, first place, for Nikki's Chocolate Treats; John Costello, second place, for John's Glove Repair; and Brett Tobin, third place, for Tob's Toggery.

"I want to own my own preschool someday, and this project showed me how much really goes into a business," Patterson noted.

Costello noted that it helped to be interested in the field in which you work -- he's into baseball, hence the reason he started his glove repair business.

"It was interesting to see how much time and money goes in [to a business] before you make a profit," Tobin added.

In early May, the three spring entrepreneurship classes will have a business plan competition at the high school; the top two scorers from both the fall and spring semesters will move on to the Business Plan Competition at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) on May 15.

The Y.E.S. program, in collaboration with STCC's Entrepreneurial Institute, the Public School Systems of Western Massachusetts and the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), provides students the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to start and maintain a small business, teaching children the foundation of what it takes to become an entrepreneur, according to a press release.