Walton Family Foundation supports new K-12 entrepreneurship initiative

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,934 views 

A Cleveland-based entrepreneurship education and experiences organization for K-12 students is expanding into Northwest Arkansas after receiving more than $1.21 million from the Walton Family Foundation, according to a Wednesday (Aug. 2) news release.

Young Entrepreneur Institute at University School, through its partnership with the online platform YIPPEE Exchange, will allow K-12 public and charter school educators in Northwest Arkansas to receive grants to access curricula, materials, and experiences from area and nationwide providers. YIPPEE was developed by Hudson, Ohio-based Burton D. Morgan Foundation and launched in 2022 in partnership with Young Entrepreneur Institute as an online marketplace for entrepreneurship education grants.

According to the release, the Walton Family Foundation is sponsoring the grants for educators in Benton and Washington counties. YIPPEE will offer qualified educators resources, such as a field trip to the Arkansas Research and Technology Park in Fayetteville, classroom workshops by Gentry-based Hens at Home, and Young Entrepreneur Institute’s supplies and advice on a real-world selling experience.

Marion Dunagan, program director for Young Entrepreneur Institute’s Northwest Arkansas initiative, said the Walton Family Foundation grant supports a two-year pilot of the initiative. Dunagan, who resides in Farmington, is the organization’s sole employee working in Northwest Arkansas. Still, about 10 employees in Cleveland support her and will come to help launch the initiative with area events.

“We are thrilled to expand our services to cultivate a vibrant youth entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northwest Arkansas,” said Ilene Frankel, executive director of Young Entrepreneur Institute. “We look forward to utilizing our almost 20 years of experience in the space, in collaboration with YIPPEE, to equip Northwest Arkansas K-12 scholars with the best in youth entrepreneurship education resources.”

YIPPEE also offers free resources available to all educators, including those who work for private schools, out-of-school-time organizations or parents homeschooling their children.

“Skill-building and teacher choice are at the core of the platform,” said Emily Bean, founding director of YIPPEE. “All of the resources on YIPPEE have been expertly curated to ensure a high-quality entrepreneurial learning experience. Teachers can select what will work best for their classrooms by reading reviews from other educators or getting a personalized consultation from a YIPPEE team member. We then pay for what qualifying educators want using funding from our generous sponsors.”

In the coming months, Young Entrepreneur Institute will host several Northwest Arkansas events to celebrate the launch of YIPPEE and provide opportunities to learn about the platform.

“We are excited about the upcoming launch of YIPPEE,” Dunagan said. “We believe this initiative will be a game-changer for K-12 education in Northwest Arkansas. Developing entrepreneurial skillsets in our youth is an investment in the future of our region — working toward economic growth, building a stronger, more capable workforce, and encouraging community engagement. We are excited about our goal of reaching 350 (Northwest) Arkansas educators and thus impacting over 6,000 K-12 students.”

Young Entrepreneur Institute was established in 2006 as a curriculum within University School, an independent K-12 school for boys. In 2012, the institute expanded outside of University School to provide entrepreneurship education to students across the country.

“We firmly believe that by igniting an entrepreneurial spark in young minds, we equip children with important skills, including creative problem-solving, public speaking, financial literacy, resilience and more,” Frankel said. “Entrepreneurial learning empowers students to become the next generation of innovative leaders, driving economic growth and making a positive difference in their communities.”