A Collingwood entrepreneur seeks to empower youth, one student at a time.
Jess Flynn, founder and chief executive officer of The Youth Empowerment Project, is gearing up to start the next round of the project on Sept. 27 and there’s still room for late registrations. The alternative education startup is for students from 12 to 18 years old and provides an eight-week course to teach teens the skills that Flynn believes are missing from the current public education system.
“It’s a different way of looking at education,” Flynn told CollingwoodToday.ca. “In my opinion, transferable skills development is far more valuable in any arena than any particular curriculum. That’s where our program is different.”
“We’ve built something really special,” she said.
Flynn, who calls herself a “serial entrepreneur,” was inspired to start the project out of the Collingwood Foundry based on her own experiences working in public education as a high-school teacher for 12 years.
“I absolutely adore working with teenagers, but at the same time I found our system very limiting without room for a lot of our students and teachers to succeed in a lot of areas,” said Flynn, noting that time constraints and class sizes contribute to these issues.
“I’ve always thought there was a better way to approach education as technology advances.”
Under Flynn’s virtual empowerment program, students receive eight weeks of live, group coaching calls in addition to workbook content, and more than 20 pre-recorded video lessons from 12 mentors with specialties such as entrepreneurship, workplace advice, confidence, creativity and digital literacy.
Topics range from mindset and yoga practices to developing a business model canvas and website building.
The program first ran as a beta test last year, and for the first time officially in April 2022 with about 20 kids signed up.
“The parents were so supportive. The students were inspired and having fun. There is a way to have a culture of excitement and connection in the virtual world, and we’re good at that,” she said.
Flynn also welcomes donations to the program, as she offers an option to sponsor a teen who might want to participate but doesn’t have the financial means to do so.
Flynn is hoping to grow the program moving forward and is considering a membership program down the road.
“We’ve done a lot in our first year. We’re really excited for the potential of where this is going,” she said.
If you’re interested in the program and would like to learn more or how to sign up or become a sponsor, click here.