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Charged up girls

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 10:00 a.m. November 22, 2013
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Entrepreneurs
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High school senior Jennifer Zhang teaches Chinese to children and families in her spare time, and she hopes to open a veterinary clinic someday.

A senior at Pine View School in Sarasota, Zhang, 18, spends the rest of her time darting between class, homework, applying to colleges and working on various community service projects. Colleges that top her wish list include the University of Florida and Tufts. But while Zhang is clearly teenage-blur busy, entrepreneurial wasn't a word she put on her resume.

That changed this past summer when Zhang and two other high school students, Christine Yin and Abby Schulte, were named delegates for Girls InCharge, a national Girls Inc. program. Now Zhang sings the praises of starting a business and entrepreneurialism.

Zhang and her peers, moreover, pay it forward. They put on how-to entrepreneurial workshops for girls in sixth through eighth grade that include lunch sessions with local woman business owners. One session was held Nov. 2, and a second one is scheduled for Dec. 7.

“When I thought about what being an entrepreneur meant when I was younger, I thought it was some really big thing that you had to be older to do,” Zhang says. “But I'm actually doing some of it already. Being an entrepreneur requires skills people use every day, like being organized and being persistent.”

The trio represented Girls Inc. of Sarasota County, a nonprofit that inspires girls to be strong, smart and bold, at the Girls InCharge summit in Indianapolis in July. The Sarasota Girls Inc. organization is one of 10 Girls Inc. chapters nationwide chosen to participate in the pilot program of Girls InCharge. Schulte, Yin and Zhang submitted applications and were the three local students selected.

Girls Inc. of Sarasota County Outreach Coordinator Dawn Wiley says one reason the program works is it's hands-on. The students, with few minor expectations, did all the work for the local seminars, from flyers to press releases to presenting on the day of the event. “A big part of Girls Inc. is letting young girls see how they can be financially independent,” Wiley says. “That's one of the best things about this program.”

Yin, 17, says the program also taught her self-empowerment and self-efficacy. Yin says now she could even see herself with a minor in business or economics in college. “I've never considered myself doing business on my own,” says Yin, who wants to study chemistry in college and be a doctor someday. “But now I could see there's a world of opportunity out there.”

Zhang, further, says the program taught her something she hadn't learned yet in school or anywhere else: The value of teaching over only giving. “All the other community service projects I have done were (about) giving to people,” Zhang says. “But we didn't teach them how to do it and how to make it better.”

In Charge
The next Girls Inc. Girls InCharge workshop is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Laurel Civic Association on 509 Collins Road, Nokomis, 34275.

The free program is open to girls in sixth, seventh and eighth grade. It includes lunch with women entrepreneurs, a bag and a T-shirt. Girls will participate in exercises on how to set up business plans and how to turn ideas into potential business models.


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