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Today's business-minded high school students will be groomed to become tomorrow's business owners through a community partnership that identifies aptitudes and encourages students to become entrepreneurs, innovators and builders - an often-overlooked segment of our student population.

The Future Builders Challenge is a program in which the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools is collaborating with the community to provide an opportunity for students to tap into their full potential and become tomorrow's leaders.

Rich Claussen, Ambassador for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Prosper Lincoln, said the Challenge identifies and grows the talents of like-minded students with a propensity for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Four components

The Challenge is grounded in global Gallup research through the Builder Profile (BP) 10 assessment. The assessment, administered in February, was provided free to all ninth-grade students in Lincoln's public and parochial schools and to about 750 high school upperclassmen enrolled in business and entrepreneurship clubs.

The BP 10 assessment identifies a student's dominant builder talents, the role that fits them best, and gives action items for applying those talents. Claussen said 4,150 assessment codes were disseminated in the schools; more than 3,200 students took the assessment.

On March 12, about 500 students identified with extreme builder talents were invited to an Inspiration Rally at Innovation Campus, where community leaders shared tales of using their strengths to challenge their communities and build businesses.

The process continued in early April with Boot Camp competition at the University of Nebraska College of Business, involving about 100 qualifying students. Two days later, the students returned for a coaching session and Pitch Competition, hosted by Spreetail. Gallup experts worked with students to build on their strengths, and to engage in Pitch Competition ideas centered on solving community challenges. A total of 19 five- and six-member teams competed for cash prizes to help launch the winning ideas.

The fourth component will occur this summer, when up to 30 students will be selected for a month-long Clifton Strengths Institute session at UNL. College undergrads trained by Gallup Strengths will then mentor each of the 30 students for the remainder of their high school career.

The 30 scholarship students will be selected in late April. Student-created businesses will be spawned in the process during the paid internship/learning sessions. The 10-course curriculum will be taught jointly by Gallup, UNL and private-sector leaders.

Building for the future

"This cross-section of young people from all parts of the socio-economic, ethnic and educational spectrum found something they all have in common – the propensity to become builders," Claussen noted.

Matt Tebo, program director of the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools, added: “The inaugural year of this program isn’t even over and the future looks brighter.”

If future funding allows, the goal is to sustain this effort for five years or longer.

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