PHOTO: Kari Miller, director of the EIC, speaks to the audience as (from left) WCS Superintendent Jason Golden, Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson and County Commission Chair Tommy Little look on. / Photos by John McBryde
By JOHN McBRYDE
Like the other 128 high school students who have enrolled in the Williamson County Schools’ Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center, Melina Bielski of Ravenwood High School and Zachary Thomas of Nolensville High are looking at the new program as a way to get a head start.
Bielski, a senior, plans to major in business in college and hopes to open her own business someday.
“I just want to get an early start to learn how to open my own business without having to do it in the real world,” she said, “where you might actually fail because most businesses don’t succeed until the third year. So it’s a good trial run.
“In the future I hope to major in either international business or entrepreneurship so this will give me a head start.”
As for Thomas, a junior, he wants to make connections in the music industry that can possibly help propel a JD music and production brand he launched in recent years.
“I’ll be in the [E1 practicum] course, which is where you have your own business and can jump-start it,” he said. “I want to make connections with people here who have insights into the music industry.”
Both Bielski and Thomas were among the audience attending Thursday morning’s grand opening and ribbon cutting for the school district’s EIC that is housed in a newly renovated 10,000-square-foot facility that was formerly part of the Williamson campus for Columbia State Community College, adjacent to Franklin High School. In addition to some of the 130 students who will begin classes Friday in the new center, attendees included WCS staff, county Mayor Rogers Anderson, school board members and county commissioners.
The crowd also included several business leaders who will play a critical part of the EIC through mentoring, advising and providing timely and pertinent information.
“This represents a great partnership between the education and the business community, something we work to facilitate on a daily basis,” Matt Largen, president of CEO of Williamson Inc., said. “So I’m thrilled to be able to help promote this and help bring business leaders.
“More than anything, this represents opportunity for students and the economy, and we’re thrilled to play a small part of that.”
The idea for the EIC began a couple of years ago as the WCS Board of Education established a strategic plan that focused on investing in student quality, providing support for students and preparing them for the future, according to WCS Superintendent Jason Golden.
“This is unique in so many ways because this is something the students have needed and some of them didn’t even know they needed,” Golden told the audience. “But now that opportunity is here for them to start getting the grasp of what it takes to run a business. One of the top majors in college is in business, and what we hope to do here is prepare those students that are going on to college for the next step so they’re a little bit ahead of their colleagues.”
EIC Director Kari Miller said the new facility will, in effect, have a dual purpose.
“This EIC will not only represent an amazing opportunity now for our WCS teens to learn and practice entrepreneurial processes by launching their business, but will also prepare future leaders and innovators to support our thriving local business community.”