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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Virginia Beach City Public Schools Students Visit Strome Center

By Brendan O'Hallarn and Victoria Forest

If, as the saying goes, entrepreneurs are made not born," Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) are getting an early start.

A group of middle school students from the VBCPS Office of Technical and Career Education visited Old Dominion University's Strome Entrepreneurial Center on July 7, for the Entrepreneurship Boot Camp, an annual summer event designed to stir creativity and innovation in participants.

The first, four-day boot camp featured 14 middle school students. They heard presentations about creating businesses, and received coaching about pitching business ideas as well as encouragement from Old Dominion student entrepreneurs. Sessions for high school students were scheduled for the following two weeks.

"I want to be an entrepreneur because I'm always looking for solutions and have a lot of good ideas," Frank Mercer IV, a 13-year-old Norfolk Academy student, said during the mid-day visit to the Strome Center.

Entrepreneurship Boot Camp is co-sponsored by the Strome Entrepreneurial Center, the Kempsville Entrepreneurship and Business Academy and the Virginia Beach Advanced Technology Center.

"It's extremely exciting to work with Virginia Beach middle and high schools, who have a good track record with entrepreneurship," said Nancy Grden, executive director of the Strome Center. "The kids produce their own 3-D products, develop and pitch their business ideas they have. Entrepreneurship is the denominator in all of this and it's great these kids want to learn more about it."

As part of the camp, students developed prototypes for the 3-D products they envisioned, then pitched their concepts to a panel of judges.

"We are excited that ODU has opened their arms for putting on this program," said Sarah Lockett, technical and career education coordinator with VBCPS. "I'm just amazed at product ideas from the students and how there are no boundaries on their ideas."

Ideas created by the middle school-aged campers include an alarm clock made out of bacon, and a business to give loans to the homeless population.

The four-day boot camp also featured networking events and business-themed field trips for the aspiring student entrepreneurs.

This marks the second summer in a row the Virginia Beach City Public Schools have worked with the Strome Center. Last August, a group of fourth grade students presented to a panel of experts prototype ideas they designed and 3-D printed, including a small plastic clip that keeps a pen or pencil attached to a clipboard; and an ingenious re-arrangeable plastic tray designed to keep compartments separate in a softcover lunchbox.

Old Dominion's Strome Entrepreneurial Center was created in 2014 following an $11-million donation from the Strome Family Foundation. It is designed to be the centerpiece of the University's campus-wide entrepreneurial strategy, empowering students at every stage of the business startup lifecycle.

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