Students get lesson in entrepreneurshipBy Yasmine Regester / July 15, 2016
Campers from the Aggie STEM Minority Males Makers Program got a firsthand lesson in entrepreneurship and elevator pitches when music executive and former CEO and President of Def Jam Records, Kevin Liles, visited the summer program on Thursday, June 23.
The free camp at N.C. Agricultural & Technical State University is part of Verizon’s Innovative Learning Program for Minority Males, a population severly underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathmatics) fields and less likely to graduate from high school and pursue college. The weeklong summer program was geared to introduce more young minority men to STEM fields.More than 100 African American male middle schoolers participated this year where they studied things like 3D printing, app development and robotics, which culminated with the students developing their own, tech-focused business ideas.
The students were then given the opportunity to practice their “elevator pitch” with Liles who served on a panel of judges during the elevator pitch contest.
Middle schoolers, Jalen Fairley and King Wall, won the contest with their app that compiled the best songs produced over the years by Def Jam’s artists.
“It was fun. I learned a lot,” said King, who added he became interested in computer coding at the camp.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Md., Liles spoke to the students on the best practices to become an entrepreneur, and how he rose from an unpaid intern in 1991 to CEO and president of Def Jam Records. Liles is currently CEO of KWL Enterprises and co-founder/partner of 300 Entertainment, a brand management firm in New York.
“STEM is in everything we do,” said Liles, who attended Morgan State University on an Electrical Engineering Scholarship. “Anything you do in life requires a level of education. Don’t look at it as a way out but as a way of life,” he told students.
Verizon’s Innovative Learning program is a two-year program that provides minority, male middle school students with hands-on-learning experiences with advanced technology and mentorship.
Launched in the summer of 2015, the Verizon Foundation partnered with four Historically Black Colleges and Universities to facilitate summer science intensive courses giving students exposure to the latest in technology. They have since added eight additional schools. The program also pairs middle school student participants with college students for mentoring throughout the school year.
Liles classified the students as Generation E, for education, entrepreneurship and empowerment and encouraged them to continue to invest in themselves.
“Even if you are employed by someone, at the end of the day the biggest person you can work for is yourself,” said Liles.