The future of business is in the hands of children

Here’s something upon which everybody should agree, even in a partisan environment in which politicians and political parties seem more intent on doing what’s best for their interests than what’s best for their constituents.

Children are our future.

Nelson Mandella put it this way: “Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth who care for and protect our people.”

As is so often the case, local efforts offer good news — in particular, two efforts designed to promote among children and teen-agers greater understanding of and interest in entrepreneurship and economics.

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce coordinates the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. The program guides middle and high school students through the process of starting ventures — coming up with new products and services, writing business plans, pitching ideas to investors and developing brands. By the end of the program, participants oversee functioning enterprises they can continue to operate.

The Freedom & Responsibility Education Enterprise (FREE) Foundation provides instruction and other resources to students and teachers in Western Colorado to promote a greater understanding of economics and free enterprise.

The Business Times has devoted a lot of ink and its digital equivalent over the years to the Young Entrepreneurs Academy and its graduates. That’s because the program is so effective and the students who participate so inspiring. The idea is to teach students to become entrepreneurs. But students have a thing or two to teach entrepreneurs as well in the hard work, inventiveness and enthusiasm they bring to their ventures.

This edition of the Business Times shines the proverbial spotlight on the FREE Foundation and its efforts. The foundation has offered a course at Caprock Academy in Grand Junction for five years as part of a program called goal hour in which students suggest activities in which they’re interested and sign up for instruction. The FREE Foundation course always fills up, even though students have such other choices as outdoor sports and book and chess clubs. As it turns out, the dismal science is anything but for students who enjoy learning about economics in engaging and entertaining presentations.

The FREE Foundation also organizes an annual Western Slope Leadership Conference for high school juniors, an event that features nationally recognized speakers and hands-on activities.

Phyllis Hunsinger, a retired educator who started the FREE Foundation, believes it’s important to expose students to business, economics and financial concepts. Yet that instruction is largely missing from public education in part because of the increasing emphasis on standardized testing.

The nature vs. nurture debate as it pertains to entrepreneurs rages on even as researchers identify what could be considered genetic and other biological contributors to entrepreneurship. But there’s still a good case to be made that entrepreneurs are made, not born, and efforts should continue to make more of them.

The future of business — of everything, in fact — is in the hands of children. It’s essential, then, that children remain in good hands.