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Author: The BCW

WIN Program Offers Students a  Real Entrepreneurship Experience

From left, BCW WIN Director Luiz Aragon, K-12 Coordinator Rocco Varuolo, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Ricca, Verizon Director of External Affairs & Government Affairs April Horton, High School Principal Emerly Hernandez, White Plains High School students, BCW President & CEO Marsha Gordon, Professor Ashley Leblanc and BCW Chairman Jamie Schutzer 

White Plains High School is preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs with help from the BCW’s Westchester Innovation Network (WIN).

The school’s program—INCubatoredu—is a rigorous, full-year elective course offering an authentic entrepreneurship experience as 20 students develop their own products or services. Four BCW members serve as volunteer coaches and mentors collaborating with the classroom teacher in guiding student teams through the process of creating their startup.

BCW member Gene Christian Baca, co-owner of Walter’s Hot Dogs, is mentoring a team of student athletes who are developing a sports-gear bag with a built-in deodorizer. Baca said he is impressed by the students’ ideas and creativity, and he’s helping his team refine their elevator pitches.

“At the ages of 16 or 17 years, they don’t have a lot of real-world experience in this area,” said Baca. “It’s going to be how they pitch it in this competition—the public speaking skills, salesmanship and the ability to build personal relationships with the judges and the audience has a lot to do with how they perform.”

In November, BCW WIN awarded the INCubatoredu a $2,500 WIN Champion Award. Rocco Varuolo, the school program’s coordinator, said the financial support was essential to helping the aspiring entrepreneurs build prototypes. “The money is used to buy the equipment because it can get a little expensive, depending on what they create,” said Varuolo. “The support really comes in handy.”

Harrison Abolafia, 17, a senior at White Plains High School, is working with his teammates on developing an environmentally friendly tubeless toothpaste product. The students used artificial intelligence to identify toothpaste as a product in need of reinvention. Since the beginning of the school year, the students met with BCW volunteers to receive guidance.

“I’ve learned that it takes a lot of work and it’s not necessarily the easiest thing to do, but if you’re committed to it, it’s definitely possible,” said Abolafia, whose team is currently developing a prototype of the tubeless toothpaste in the school’s chemistry lab.

Abolafia said that he would like to see the recruit BCW members with specific backgrounds in each team’s product sector. “It would help to have somebody from a toothpaste company come in and help us,” said Abolafia.

Varuolo said that the next steps for the school are to create a foundation and launch an accelerator to launch actual businesses with students who previously took the incubator class. In September the school hopes to add a second teacher to include more students in INCubatoredu.

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