YEA! is officially back in session

The Visalia and Tulare Chambers of Commerce kicked off the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) on Oct. 6 with 13 of the best and brightest middle and high school students, each with a dream to launch and run their own, real businesses.

A competitive application process required students to complete an essay, write responses to short answer questions, submit their school transcripts, request letters of reference, and participate in an in-person interview prior to acceptance into the program.

Throughout the year, these students will work in close cooperation with local business leaders, community leaders and educators who use their personal experiences to demonstrate how to develop business ideas and objectives, write a business plan, pitch to investors, obtain funding, register with governmental agencies, and more.

By the end of the 30-week class, students own and operate fully-formed and functioning businesses, which may be carried on after graduation from the program. Classes will be held at the College of the Sequoias campuses in Visalia and in Tulare. Classes will be held weekly and instructed by Heather Bixler, Adjunct Faculty, COS and Nathan Halls, Visalia Branch President, Suncrest Bank.

2015-2016 class:

•Charlotte Banks, Eighth Grade, Live Oak Middle School

•Josiah Banks, Senior, Tulare Union High School

•Carmen Gallegos, Eighth Grade, La Joya Middle School

•Alec Gerges, Eighth Grade, St. Paul’s School

•Jad Gerges, Freshman, San Joaquin Memorial High School

•Jude Grijalva, Sophomore, Golden West High School

•Ambar Melendez, Senior, Mt. Whitney High School

•Mitchell Nuckols, Freshman, University Preparatory High School

•Robert Perry, Senior, VTEC High School

•Marco Quintanar, Senior, VTEC High School

•Miguel Trejo, Senior, Mission Oak High School

•Mary Vinzon, Junior, Golden West High School

•Michael Watkins, Senior, Redwood High School

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is a national program offered for students in grades 6 to 12 by chambers of commerce, professional organizations, colleges and universities and public and private middle and high schools. For more information visit

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) is a 501(c)3 offering ground-breaking year-long classes that teach middle and high school students how to start and run their own businesses. Throughout the class, students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch their plans to a panel of investors for startup funds, and launch and run their own, fully formed companies and social movements. The project-based program empowers students to take charge of their futures.

Founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester with support from the Kauffman Foundation, YEA! today serves thousands of students nationwide. In 2011, the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation became a national sponsor and partner of the Academy to help celebrate the spirit of enterprise among today’s youth and tomorrow’s future leaders.

YEA! bridges the business and educational communities to fulfill its mission of teaching more students how to make a job, not just take a job. YEA! is made possible by The Kauffman Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the E. Philip Saunders Foundation. For more information, visit

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