Entrepreneurship Training for Inner City Youth - 16 Years Later What Has Changed ?

Hyde Park Tech Corps install a complete new server system at HPA. The quote from contractors was over 100,000 dollars ... the students with certified union staff did the work for 6,000. (Photo by John Kugler)On this Labor Day, looking back at what could have been if the powers that be would have stayed the course of practical vocational education for our children in public schools.

Think about all the students that could have been business owners, inventors, or having a good middle-class job. Imagine all those young people that could have helped us get through the COVID Pandemic, Social Unrest, and Economic Problems we are all reminded of every day on the TV.

Maybe we would never have gone through any of the destruction and terror we have all witnessed in the past few years, but lets get back to figuring out what was and what can be.

We are currently stuck in a polarized, globally connected generation that wants all or nothing rather than what is best for everyone's future. With the constant fighting between political ideology and economic theory, the result is a failed system for our children, and what we see on the TV news and Twitter feeds.

It takes private and public sector influences that create real-time learning conditions where young people can hear, see and do what is necessary to learn the skills they need to succeed and prosper.

The news and pundits talk about labor shortages and untrained workers, yet the tools and infrastructure have always been in place to train our youth.

Only the leaders, policymakers, and politicians are the ones that continuously change. With that change comes dysfunction from top-down directives that impose untested ideas on institutional systems meant to create stability and structure. Politicians want to promote ideologies rather than what our country needs to survive future global trauma.

Instead of leaders trying to make a name for themselves by using inner city youth as test subjects or places to spend money on crony contracts and ideas, we need to clean house and hire competent individuals that understand what our students need. Maybe it's time citizens demanded justice for the thousands of youth hurt by people who were selfish and did not give our kids what they needed to be successful at anything they chose to do after high school.

Yes, anything they choose, not pushing all public school kids into college for the last 20 years. Lest we forget that after people graduate from college, they will need to get a job. People have been getting paid while our students have been getting a short changed.

Contractors with EE Program lecture and give hands on instruction with a tablesaw installation the students will be using. Guess who knew how to fix the machines when they broke down? you guessed it the students. (Photo by John Kugler)

It is time to scarp college prep in our public schools and return to holistic, practical training for all public school students in our country. And not just in the high schools, we need to start thinking about middle schools and grammar school programming that refocus our youth on being successful and productive members of our society.

Here is a paper written 16 years ago about the importance of training inner-city youth using authentic, practical, and industry-specific instructors who are guided by fully certified staff. ------------------------------------------------------

Entrepreneurship Training for Inner City Youth

by John Kugler, MSEd

Session EN 401-114

Proceedings of The 2006 IJME

INTERTECH Conference

School closures and low performance are problems in urban high schools without any real solutions. An investigation of some of the underlying problems that hamper inner-city high school administrators from implementing change and innovation that might prevent school closings and low performance among the student population of local districts within metropolitan areas is undertaken. A review of both domestic and global demands on future workforce skills will be used to help shed light on possible initiatives and program changes for secondary education in America. Plans and projects for the expansion of entrepreneurship training and integration into secondary curriculum are presented: including the Entrepreneurial Encouragement Program, Hyde Park Technology Corps, and Hyde Park Entrepreneurs.


Plato talks about education in the Republic and asks, "That the most important stage of any enterprise is the beginning, especially when something young and sensitive is involved? You see, that's when most of its formation takes place, and absorbs every impression that anyone wants to stamp upon it" [1]. "Preach, my dear Sir, a crusade against ignorance," wrote Thomas Jefferson in a letter to a friend [2] . Thomas Jefferson believed education was the means by which people could become useful productive members of the state and the "basic necessity for self- government," to develop a good strong technically advanced nation [3].

Current Conditions

“’We need help fast,’ said Hyde Park teacher John Kugler, the school's teachers union delegate” [4], in reference to the rise in school violence. Hyde Park Academy (HPA) is an inner city high school that exhibits many of the issues that are being experienced in public education today. The history of HPA is one of prominent and influential people who went through the halls of the high school: i.e., actor Steve Allen, former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown, musician Herbie Hancock, singer Mel Torme, soul singer Minnie Riperton, and aviator Amelia Earhart. The rich history of HPA, “the glory years,” has prevented the initiation and implementation of much-needed change at the school even though the demographics and socioeconomic status of the students has changed. In addition to these changes there is a shift towards gentrification and restructuring of low income housing in Chicago and the area is again in flux.

Global Demands

Industrialization in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was the influence on American education, educators such as Dewey, Meade, and Mann pushed for an efficient and standardized educational system to produce skilled workers for American progress [5]. American culture is no longer an industrial leader pushing manufacturing to the edges of innovation and production. Instead, America has become a superpower with an aging population that looks to be a partner in a globally interdependent social structure [6].

Hence, there is a need to shed the pedagogical tendencies of the past and to focus on utilizing existing strengths on the future, this will help to provide youth with the tools and skills to compete in a rapidly changing global market place. Globalization directly affects the demands on the current and future graduates of the American educational system. Consumerism in America is driving innovation and enterprise in foreign countries that are competing for market share in the US. Sustainability and capitalization need to become incorporated within the curriculum to help prepare students for success in the world economy [7]. The educational system of today is still working on solving issues that were related to the industrialization of western society. There needs to be a break from the past and prepare for the future.

Entrepreneurial Encouragement Program

Liscensed CPS Contrator prepping students before running a CAT cable. Explaining the work flow, safety parameters and trouble shooting (Photo by John Kugler)

One consequence of global demand is the development of the Entrepreneurial Encouragement (EE) program which is a vehicle by which information is shared about the many opportunities for occupational independence that exist in the fields associated with vocational studies. It is a program designed to open the minds of inner city youth to the opportunities that await them in their communities and around the world [8]. Chicago State University, Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team presented the EE program to minority vocational students of the Chicago Public Schools. The belief of the program is the importance of making a concrete link between classroom study and real world demand for skilled multicultural, multilingual artisans, who will be able to design, build, repair, and maintain our infrastructures in the years to come [9].

Hyde Park Technology Corps

The goal of the Hyde Park Technology Corps (HPTC) is to catalyze the development of youth resources for themselves and their communities. An outcome-focused, project-based and technology-based environment is used as a stimulating program framework to accomplish this goal. HPTC is organized as a student-run social venture which develops computer learning centers in an underserved community. The organization is a Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) through its Fresh Start for Donated Computers program and affiliate of Youth Technology Corps (YTC) an international organization that empowers youth to become agents of change at home and around the world through technology education, community service and teamwork [10].

One project the HPTC completed was to rebuild computers for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Hyde Park Career Academy. The HPTC team received a request for ten computers to set up a computer lab. HTPC students proceeded to rebuild computers that had been taken off the inventory sheets of teachers and marked for disposal. The equipment was then reconfigured and installed into a classroom.

Hyde Park Entrepreneurs

Hyde Park Tech Corps service equipment at HPA. No waiting for overworked CPS TechCos or waiting for overpriced vendors to repair simple issues ... our students were certified to repair, configure and make money for technology repairs ... win win for everyone. (Photo by John Kugler)

The following is the description of the Hyde Park Entrepreneurs (HPE) Student Enterprise program from the Education to Careers (ETC) website:

Student Enterprises supplement classroom training through the creation of student businesses from various career cluster areas. Students work with teacher advisors after school and on weekends to conceptualize, develop, and implement service or product- oriented businesses to a customer base within the Chicago Public Schools. The Student Enterprises program teaches students entrepreneurship skills, provides students with hands-on experience [11].

Statement of students in business proposal:

We want to use what we learn and our shops to make money and help the school. We believe we can do small repairs, classroom maintenance computer maintenance small construction, printing services, software installation, newsletters and even design and build special small furniture [12].

Projects that the enterprise has completed include: preparing and painting the 4000+ square foot cafeteria facility at HPA, designing and installing 12 data drops at 250’ plus for the physical education department, redesign and upgrading the Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) laboratory in conjunction with a $50,000 Improvement Grant [13].

HPE students did construction and maintenance work inside of the school building while earning pay. They had to bid the jobs, prep the jobs, complete the work, and then submit for payment after inspection ... students also ran a job shop making custom ordered furniture and goods. (Photo by John Kugler)


Hyde Park Academy is a school rooted in the past and consequently is paying the price for the lack of forethought that globalization creates change. Through experimentation, engineering and entrepreneurship the school can become a leader in educational change. Achievement of student growth as a result of implementing pragmatic learning by designing and developing a highly efficient modern laboratory facility that integrates entrepreneurship in an inner city urban high school is essential for understanding the self-efficacy of students, including the various stages of cognitive development that each individual may be experiencing. By using "hands-on" instruction, characterized by an extensive highly specialized laboratory environment, students will be empowered to design and create learning facilities of the future that will be used to generate innovative concepts that conform to industry standards in a fast paced authentic learning environment.


[1] Plato, Republic. 1993, New York: Oxford University Press., p. 71.

[2] Malone, D., Jefferson the Virginian. 1948, Boston: Little, Brown and Co., p. 281

[3] Koch, A. and W. Peden, Eds., The Life and selected writings of Thomas Jefferson. 1944, Modern Library: New York, p. xli.

[4] Rossi, R., M. J. Konkol, and A. Golab, “Schools close, violence spikes,” in Chicago Sun- Times. 2006: Chicago, p. 20A-21A.

[5] Kugler, J. A Study of Czechoslovak Immigration and their Contributions to Vocational Education in Chicago between 1875 and 1935. 2003, Chicago State University: Chicago.

[6] Postman, N., Technopoly: the Surrender of Culture to Technology. 1st ed. 1992, New York: Knopf: Distributed by Random House, p.20.

[7] Ritzer, G., Mcdonaldization: the reader. 2002, Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press. p. 274, p. 20.

[8] Moore, M., “Chi-State SIFE begins Empowering the Community,” in Chicago State Tempo. 2006: Chicago. p. 5.

[9] Kugler, John. “Entrepreneurial Encouragement,” in Annual Report 2003, Chicago State University, Students in Free Enterprise: Chicago.

[10] Youth Technology Corps. Mission Statement. 2005 [Accessed 2006 June 15]; Available from:

[11] Chicago Public Schools, Student Enterprise. 2004 [Accessed 2006 July 15]; Available from:

[12] Hyde Park Entrepreneurs, Student Enterprise business proposal. 2004, Hyde Park Academy Design and Build Department: Chicago.

[13] Kugler, J., ETC Program Improvement Grant, FY06, continuation grant, Carpentry/Construction Laboratory Improvements, Hyde Park Academy High School. 2005, Chicago Public Schools, Office of Education to Careers.


JOHN KUGLER is a design and build instructor at Hyde Park Academy, a Chicago Public School, since September 2004. Previously, he worked for 20 years in the manufacturing and construction industries. He completed his BS and MSEd in Technology Education at Chicago State University and earned his Illinois State Secondary Teaching Certificate through the Alternative Route to Certification program at Eastern Illinois University. He now teaches three levels of architectural design/drafting and three levels of carpentry/construction programs at HPA.

Proceedings of The 2006 IJME - INTERTECH Conference

Session EN 401-114


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