Thomas More to host entrepreneurship program for teens

As part of its push to become a leader in innovation, Thomas More University will host a summer program for Kentucky high school students who dream of making it big in the business world.

The Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs’ Summer Startup initiative is a nontraditional, hand-on learning experience for ninth, 10th and 11th graders across the commonwealth. Participants work in teams to come up with an idea, turn it into a product or service and then pitch it to a panel of judges.

For the first time, students will travel to Thomas More’s campus this year for a three-week GSE session. The teens will be in Crestview Hills from June 16 to July 6.

The Northern Kentucky school is one of two universities hosting programs this summer. The other is the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

“GSE has developed a strong reputation for entrepreneurial education, and as the innovation destination of the region, our collaboration will empower the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs,” said Jeni Al Bahrani, director of Thomas More’s Zembrodt Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

A decade of innovation

When they created GSE 10 years ago, Kentucky leaders voiced a desire to help teens develop the skills to prepare them to do great things and foster future economic growth in the commonwealth. Students learn to work in teams and receive opportunities to learn from successful business leaders while getting a taste of living on a university campus, according to Gov. Andy Beshear.

GSE is free for students.

One of the session winners in 2023 was the JS Chats team. The five-member team came up with a plan to help senior citizens living in care facilities feel less isolated by connecting them via video call with high school students who need service hours.

To date, 941 high school students have graduated from the summer program since it began in 2013. Graduates qualify for scholarships at the state’s colleges and universities.

Dozens of businesses have been launched in Kentucky by GSE graduates and several patents have been filed, Beshear said.

“Kentucky has so many bright, talented and creative students, and opportunities available through GSE can help those who dream of becoming an entrepreneur succeed,” added Beshear, who became governor in 2019.

Expanding bluegrass roots

This is the first time in GSE’s 10-year history that two schools will host summer sessions. The UK session will run June 23 to July 13.

For Thomas More, attracting GSE to Northern Kentucky is an extension of the school’s years-long effort to support entrepreneurial efforts. The creation of the Zembrodt Center reflects its attempt to “foster academic excellence and innovation,” a goal set forth in its five-year strategic plan.

A rendering of the Zembrodt Center

President Joseph Chillo views the themes of innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit as complementing Thomas More’s Catholic, liberal arts education. He described GSE as a platform for bringing attention to the university while helping “young minds to flourish and make a lasting impact on the world.”

“Together, we are igniting a spark of creativity that will shape the future of business in the Commonwealth,” he added.

GSE President Anne Jewell voiced excitement about expanding the initiative. She noted that both schools have demonstrated a deep commitment to and passion for developing Kentucky’s current and future entrepreneurs.

Online applications for the 2024 class are open until Jan. 22. GSE leaders don’t consider grade-point average or test scores.

“We can’t wait for our students to experience the exceptional opportunities and environments at Thomas More University and the University of Kentucky,” Jewell said.

Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs’ Summer Startup

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