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Fostering innovation by connecting high school students and local business owners.

Upstarts Overview

The program, formerly known as Youth Entrepreneurship Clinics (YEC), fosters collaboration between high school students and local business owners. In this innovative inquiry-based learning model, youth and business owners reverse typical roles. Business owners report challenges they've faced in their businesses, and youth design solutions for these real-world problems. High school participants learn the entrepreneurial processes through immersion in business operations, and business owners receive fresh perspectives and the opportunity to mentor promising local talent.

The program is initiated by Extension Specialists, Prof. Surin Kim (Entrepreneurship) and Dr. Maria de Guzman (Adolescent Development), and further developed by a team of interdisciplinary faculty: Dr. Claire Nicholas (Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology), Dr. Ashu Guru (Former Extension Specialist in Teaching and Learning), and Andrew Larson (4-H Extension Educator, Entrepreneurship and Innovation). The program evaluation and relevant research are led by Dr. Maria de Guzman and Dr. Claire Nicholas. The project is funded by Rural Futures Institute, the United States Department of Agriculture, and private foundations in order to build self-sustaining entrepreneurial communities across Nebraska and beyond. We are looking for more schools and partners, to expand this research-based program after the pilot.

We are hosting our first complementary virtual training for educators on March 15 - March 26, 2021. To sign up for the first virtual educator training, please visit:

To find out more about the program and educator training or to become a partner, contact


Get in touch. We'd love to find the perfect program for your community.

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