Walnut Hill: YES Program


The YES Program stands for Youth + Entrepreneurship = Success. The Enterprise Center is the facility that houses the After-School Executive Incubator Program. YES Program partnerships with seven surrounding Philadelphia Academy public schools. The schools they are in partnership with and grants fund the YES Program. Not all students get the opportunity to participate in the YES In-School Program because they have contracts with certain schools.

This is a great program for an area like this in the city of Philadelphia. The reason for that is defined in the 2000 Census of the zip code 19139. According to the 2000 Census, there are over 75 percent of students ages 16 to 19 enrolled in schools. That leaves about 25 percent of that age population not enrolled in school. Furthermore, only 10 percent of the 25 percent not enrolled in school graduated from high school.

According to the School District of Philadelphia, Parkway West High School and Paul Robeson High School have a high percentage of over 95 percent African-American students. The YES Program is geared toward minority students. YES Program Director Malyka Sankofa says, “I think it’s relevant [to have this program] because students need to have as many opportunities as possible to be able to excel.”

Aliya Edwards, 16, is a tenth grade student at Paul Robeson High School.

Aliya Edwards, 16, is a 10th-grade student at Paul Robeson High School. She got into the YES Program through a class she took at school. Edwards says the YES Program “teaches me how to own my own business and how to manage time.” She is looking forward to having her own business one day. The resources at The Enterprise Center allow Edwards to build connections to further her business in custom cookies. In January, Aliya Edwards was rewarded $500 to start her own business.

Randall Watson, 17, is an 11th-grade student at Parkway West High School. Watson won a spot in the YES Program through his school’s entrepreneur class. Watson says the program “is giving me the time and place to focus on my Electric Motorcycle business.”

Seth Brown, 16, is a 10th-grade student at Parkway West High School. Brown’s business is SB Animation Studios where they make cartoons, movies, and movies of current series. He was invited to the executive incubator from his high school after passing the entrepreneur class.  He says, “I had the best PowerPoint” of all the presentations.

Randall Watson, 17, is an eleventh grade student and Seth Brown, 16, is a tenth grade student at Parkway West High School.

Brown says, “Usually, I come in and go right to work. But, if I know I don’t have a lot to do I would check my Facebook for mail on my personal and business account dealing with Yahoo.” Connection is important to Brown’s business.

Pita Lacenski, 28, is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania and an intern for the YES Program at The Enterprise Center. Lacenski says, “I heard about The Enterprise Center at a job I had last summer. And then I went to grad school. I was kind of interested in what was going on here so when it came time for me to find an internship, I requested an interview.” Although Lacenski has not been there long, she really likes the kids she works with and sees great potential in the kids.

Lacenski says, “I think it’s pretty comprehensive. They get an understanding of a lot of different parts of business. From ordering products to creating and budget to marketing, things like that. I think it is really beneficial. There are a lot of resources.” The students have access to the lab and a private cubicle in the back, which is available to students to go and make phone calls and a computer that is used for their personal work that is related to their business.

Watson says,  “I’d like to see more computers put in and more speakers” to improve this program. This summer the YES Program will undergo a remodeling project to help create more space for students to work.

Mentoring from the staff at The Enterprise Center is also a key component for the YES Program. Malyka Sankofa pairs students up with the staff of The Enterprise Center to help them have a clearer understanding of starting up a business. The program helps expand kids’ minds and allows them to see what business is really like.

YES Program Director Malyka Sankofa and Business Education and Administrative Coordinator Nafeesha Mays.

According to Sankofa, “[YES Program] has a very strong parental support program, and parents constantly call or come by to see how their students are doing. Sometimes, we even have parents that are entrepreneurs come in and talk to the students about what their entrepreneurial endeavors are.”

This program really taught Edwards, Watson and Brown a lot about a future in business. Brown says, “It really makes me think about how I want to run my business in the future. The things I would have to do and how I would have to manage my employees. But before I go into my own business I need to get experience in the animation field.”

Sankofa says, “Learning about business and how a business is run is something that students can take with them throughout their lives and apply in every situation, whether they are a consumer or whether they are in fact a business owner.” Sankofa says she is “interested in growing the program.”

The YES program also helps in public speaking, SAT preparation and writing. Not every student has the opportunity to participate in the Business Boot Camp in the summer. Sankofa says, “I think it’s a very rewarding experience and every student should have an opportunity to participate in. “

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