The Florida Afterschool Network (FAN) on Wednesday launched a new program aimed at fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in Florida’s youth.
The Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative, funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, will provide afterschool, summer and expanded learning programs with direct access to resources, evidence-based curricula, training, and technical assistance to help students build the skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow.
The initiative will also build a statewide youth entrepreneurship ecosystem that connects students and afterschool providers to local chambers of commerce and other like-minded businesses and organizations that have a passion for empowering entrepreneurs and fostering creativity.
“Florida’s job market is evolving faster than ever before thanks to advances in technology and the changing needs of our growing population,” FAN Chairman John Trombetta said. “The timing of this initiative will allow afterschool programs to play an integral role in preparing our youth to meet those demands with confidence and skill.”
FAN also announced the hire of Jennifer Smith, a former Duval County educator-turned-business owner, who will spearhead the initiative as FAN’s Youth Entrepreneurship Specialist.
Smith is the founder of the Giving Closet Project, a nonprofit providing clothing, hygiene items, and other basic essentials to homeless and low-income youth in Duval and Palm Beach counties.
In 2020, she participated in the JAX Bridges Program, an entrepreneurial development program hosted by the Jacksonville Chamber Entrepreneurial Growth Division. Smith is also the founder of consulting business Better Roots, where she assists and guides others on starting their own nonprofits.
“If youth can learn to recognize opportunities, take risks, and innovate in the face of challenges, then we, as educators, have successfully expanded their mindset to be better prepared for participating in the workforce,” Smith said. “I am excited to join the Florida Afterschool team and lead this initiative while advocating for our future leaders of tomorrow.”
FAN Director Brian Hickey added, “The experience and connections Jennifer bring to the position will help us not only develop vital resources programs need access to today, but also engage and connect the business sector with our education system in new and innovative ways. This initiative will better prepare tomorrow’s workforce, and that is a win-win for all involved.”