Charter Partners Institute has been involved with teaching entrepreneurship and more specifically the entrepreneurial spirit or entrepreneurial thinking for more than 15 years. You can follow our development, and better understand where we are coming from, by reviewing the information here about our major program activities over those many years.
The founders of CPI first experimented with an alternative method to teach entrepreneurship to high school students in the late 1990′s with the Wings Program. The goal was to provide a hands-on approach to teach students who were turned off by traditional academic lectures. It began as a fledgling after school program with six students, and it progressed to a series of elective courses involving as many as 300 students. Students in the courses now run six different businesses.
After moving to Pennsylvania in the mid 2000′s, efforts were made to get Lehigh Valley schools to start something like Wings. This proved difficult because schools didn’t seem to have enough energy after all they are required to do. Nevertheless, in 2006-2008 a team of students at Bethlehem Area Vocational Technical School organized MT6 and tested several business ideas and contests. They worked almost exclusively on their own, with support from the administration, since they had no teacher. The school administration has tried to keep the effort going but does not have the budget for a teacher.
CPI tried going directly to students with a one week summer program called eVenture. Students developed original business ideas, formed their own teams, and developed the business models to a remarkable degree in only a week. The experience proved transformational for students from all backgrounds and academic levels, showing what students can do when they are fully engaged and in charge. eVenture continued until the summer of 2012, when CPI became too engaged in other activities to have time to organize this event.
In the summer of 2009 CPI tried to share our learning approach with a group of area teachers. They spent two days doing their own hands-on entrepreneurial experience, and then we talked about how this could translate to their classes. Participants said the experience changed their perspective on what is possible. However, despite the enthusiasm, it appears that many had a difficult time applying what they learned when they returned to the very different learning cultures of their regular schools.
CPI has conducted a number of partial day programs for various student groups to get them thinking on their own and developing their own solutions to issues. These events always seem popular, with the sponsors saying the students were much more engaged than at other events they have held. CPI”s availability to hold these events has been limited recently by our more extensive learning activities.
In 2011 CPI began a series of “salons” to engage the Lehigh Valley community. The topic was what kind of education system is needed to make the Lehigh Valley an innovative region. About 25 participants shared their concerns about education and also education experiences from their past that had a particularly strong impact on their success in life. These sessions were very enlightening for all, but after a while we held back because we sensed the group wanted to do something rather than talk about it.
CPI took a giant step forward when, in Sept 2010, we partnered with Lincoln Leadership Academy Charter School in Allentown, PA. We assist with a project-based leadership course required for all Juniors and Seniors that culminates with a student-directed graduation project. Lincoln has a high proportion of at-promise students from low income families in Allentown. This effort has been a tremendous learning experience for us, where we work to change student perspectives within the distractions of a regular school environment. However, the students have responded well and often accomplished things they believed were beyond their capabilities. Select the tab on our home page to see more.
In 2009 our founder, Todd Welch, decided to take three years out of his life to study and think about trust. He has interviewed people from around the country and put together a documentary video on what he has learned and how he sees a lack of trust as one of the major barriers to a successful society today.