Purchase photos

E-center reaches out, shows benefits of staying rural





PHILLIPSBURG -- The Phillips County Entrepreneurial Center is reaching out to young people as part of an effort to keep them in rural areas.

The E-Center implemented an entrepreneurship investigation (ESI) program for 51 eighth-grade students at Phillipsburg Middle School last spring.

The program was a component of the life skills taught in health class, said Bridgit Smith, executive director for the E-Center and the Phillips County Community Foundation.

It provided students an introduction to the community, entrepreneurship and strength assessment, she said.

Entrepreneurship gave kids who might not have an area of interest another option to become involved, said Kent Otte, PMS principal.

"There were a few who were involved in it and had some success," he said.

"Entrepreneurs are dreamers and visionaries," Smith said.

Traits might be troublesome sometimes in middle school, but are assets for entrepreneurs, she said.

At the end of the program, students had the option of developing a product and selling it to a downtown marketplace, or returning to physical education classes.

Five students chose to develop products and were successful in marketing them.

"It enables students to see they can develop things in a rural community and stay here and live," Smith said. "Even if they don't come back (to a rural area to live), we're giving them life skills, and they will be better employees."

Because of the success of the first program, the center offered a four-day camp this summer.

A total of 13 teenagers signed up for the camp, which included field trips to niche businesses. They also ate lunch in local restaurants, learning about customer service and calculating tips.

Otte said second semester schedules aren't set yet, but the district might offer the class again.

Smith is planning to offer the summer camp, along with an advanced level, and adding a regional program.

Planting Seeds for the Future is a weeklong program that could be offered through Smoky Solomon Valley Resource Enhancement Group.

That group includes 13 counties -- Norton, Phillips, Smith, Osborne, Rooks, Graham, Gove, Trego, Ellis, Russell, Ness, Rush and Lane.

The program would have a coordinator and teacher, and work with local volunteers.

Smith gave a presentation about the youth program at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank-Investment Connection earlier this month.

It was one of eight proposals selected to be presented to representatives from banks, philanthropies and government agencies.

"We just loved working with the kids," Smith said. "We're excited to grow into a regional program."