We are thrilled to announce that Celebrate EDU has received its second grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The 2021 Central Standards grant will enable us to expand our entrepreneurship education programs in rural Nebraska.
The goal is to build an ecosystem of support for entrepreneurs with disabilities in rural Nebraska with two main areas of focus:
1. Providing entrepreneurship education to individuals with disabilities
2. Establishing community partners to support entrepreneurial efforts
Celebrate EDU has been providing online business classes for individuals with autism and developmental disabilities since 2014. We first began working with Nebraska Educational Service Unit (ESU)13 in 2017, and in February 2021 we received a $15,000 sub-award from the Nebraska Council on Developmental Disabilities to provide entrepreneurship education to youth with disabilities. 75 students participated in the Celebrate EDU online entrepreneurship class in Spring 2021.
Central Standards grantees are partnering and collaborating to build thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems in the Heartland while also connecting the region to the most innovative practices from across the country
Aidan N., a student who completed the class says, “One thing that I learned about myself in Spark 101 is that I am persevering when it comes to doing something I really want to. Despite difficulties or failures, I keep going.” Other students reported learning more about their interests in art, computers, or gardening, and feeling improved self-confidence and self-advocacy skills.
Through our previous Kauffman Foundation grant, we learned that for entrepreneurs with disabilities to find long-term success, they must also develop a community of support to help sustain entrepreneurial ventures. As we move into Phase 2, our goal is to activate a support network of local businesses, state agencies, entrepreneur support organizations, and service providers to join our efforts. Celebrate EDU will conduct virtual training to ensure that these partners are equipped to support and encourage the path of entrepreneurship for people with disabilities.
Betty Hatfield, a teacher in Kearney, Nebraska, says, “I would (and did) highly recommend this class for transition students. It is always good for my transition students to complete different assessments and hear another perspective from the Celebrate EDU instructor. Her feedback was honest and delivered in a kind and encouraging way….My students all participated and said that they enjoyed the class!”
When the academic year resumes in the fall, Celebrate EDU will continue offering Spark 101 through the Nebraska Council on Developmental Disabilities grant and empower participants in the Phase 1 program to take the next steps toward starting their own business. Participants will have access to the Celebrate EDU expanded library of online business classes as well mentorship and support from trained community members.
In 2022, Celebrate EDU will focus on replicating Phase 1 in other educational service units in Nebraska, while ideally bringing an additional 100 students from other communities through the Spark 101 program. During this time, we will also support the business development of participants in earlier programs and solidify the stakeholders in the rural entrepreneur ecosystem. The final phase of this project, planned for the second half of 2022, will be disseminating information gathered from students, family members, and community leaders who have participated in this project. This will build buy-in for continued collaboration and community development.
“If we’re going to build the Heartland that includes all communities and voices, we need to start with focusing on growing an inclusive economy that centers entrepreneurship and innovation. As difficult as that work will be, it will be made even more difficult if we try to do it alone and disconnected. Central Standards grantees are partnering and collaborating to build thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems in the Heartland while also connecting the region to the most innovative practices from across the country,” says Chris Harris, senior program officer in Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation.