SWEEP ignites entrepreneurial mindsets in CTE students in rural WV via design thinking

The EdVenture Group, Inc., Marshall University iCenter, and the West Virginia Department of Education wrapped up a weeklong kick-off of the Simulated Workplace Entrepreneurship Education Pathway (SWEEP) project. Over the past seven days, the team delivered five workshops at five participating career and technical education (CTE) centers throughout the state to ignite entrepreneurial mindsets and introduce CTE students to the process of design thinking.

“SWEEP helps empower young people in West Virginia to view themselves as a resource for their local community. Too often, we hear students say they want to leave West Virginia because there are limited opportunities and few things to do. SWEEP turns that notion on its head and empowers students to generate and create those opportunities,” said Amber Ravenscroft, Manager of Innovation for The EdVenture Group and SWEEP Project Director.
Dr. Ben Eng of Marshall University's iCenter brainstorms problem statements with WCCTC students.

Nearly 200 students from Calhoun Gilmer Career Center, Lincoln County High School, Mingo Central High School, Fayette Institute of Technology, and Wyoming County Career and Technical Center participated in the hands-on programming. During the workshop, students explored opportunities in their community and pitched ideas for projects developed during the design thinking process of customer empathy, ideation, and experimentation. Students tackled problems in their school and local community, including public health, transportation, community engagement, business development, recreation, tourism, and local brain drain.

“I like that it gave us a process for thinking through difficult problems. It’s a skill we can take beyond the classroom,” said one Wyoming County CTC student.

Solutions includes creative ideas like the “Launch Lincoln” initiative (see pitch below), which showcases local entrepreneurial ventures and provides consulting support via Lincoln County High’s business program, the “Devil Anse Diner” on Miner Mountain in Mingo County, which highlights West Virginia culture and provides recreational opportunities to build upon the successful Hatfield McCoy trail system in the region, and an app-based school hygiene system to alleviate the spread of germs in flu season. Students will take these ideas and ideas generated within their classrooms to the Young Entrepreneur Showcase (YES WV), taking place on May 4 at Marshall University.

“By helping students reframe problems as opportunities and teaching them leading innovation techniques, we are empowering them with the mindset and tools they can use to not only change the course of their own lives, but the trajectory of the state of West Virginia,” said Tricia Ball, Associate Director of Marshall University’s iCenter.

The SWEEP project is a three-year initiative funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER program. For more information on SWEEP, contact Amber Ravenscroft, SWEEP Project Director today at aravenscroft@edvgroup.org or 301-268-1623.

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