Think Tank Evolved from an Idea to a New Class at KIPP!

July 03, 2014

2014-think-tank-100x116Think Tank: Jr. Entrepreneurial Training Program
by Stella Payton, Volunteer Program Director

In Spring 2013, I went on the Urban Plunge at Hope Church and ended up volunteering with Oasis of Hope in the Warrior Princesses program, where Oasis Staffer, Terrice Thomas, challenged me to look at my own seminars and programs and see what might be a good fit for the students at Oasis of Hope. I agreed, and a few months later I was cleaning out old files from my computer when I came across Think Tank; an entrepreneurial training program for children. It had been a part of the old Learning Academy curriculum from years earlier.

I dusted it off and emailed Terrice. I honestly didn’t think anything would come of it. Imagine my surprise when a few days later I got a call from KIPP’s Assistant Principal Kendall Wilson-Flippin expressing interest in the program! I thought, “I am a corporate trainer not a middle school teacher,” but the opportunity excited me so we launched a pilot version last fall.

I have always believed that the seeds of all greatness can be traced back to experiences that ignite passion inside of us. That was my hope for Think Tank. I wanted the program to get children excited about money, investing, and learning how creativity and problem solving can be sources for wealth. It also taught financial independence by using the business processes inherent in our American free enterprise system. Think Tank educates children in the principles of business that relate to creating wealth and generating money. Lessons are taught by originating a product and taking that product to the marketplace to generate income.

But Think Tank was more than just business skills, kids also learned about values and the guiding principles that are the bedrock of achievement. They learned the 7 Universal Laws of Success. They learned the 4 Realms of Creation; that all things are created 4 times. They learned about visualization and the power of using your imagination. I mean, this was stuff I didn’t even learn in college, and it was great!

Over two semesters we had nearly 200 students. First the entire KIPP 6th grade in the fall and then the entire 7th grade this past spring. It was an awesome challenge that I welcomed. We wanted to expose the students to the enormous opportunities available to create money. One way we did that was by bringing in various speakers, as well as taking them to the Hope Market Square last fall. Students got to meet dozens of entrepreneurs face to face. Artists, writers, and craftsmen of every kind.

Then in February we learned about the Memphis Black Business Expo’s KidVention competition. We entered, and one of our students, Kameren Brown, won 2nd place! Kameren is just one example of what can happen when you put students in the right atmosphere. They explode with creative ideas.

What’s next? I’m not sure. But my hope is that we bring Think Tank back in the fall and get it ready for other schools. We also want to explore the next phase of the program, which involves actually taking one of the kid’s ideas, manufacturing it, and taking it to the market place.

But for now, I am just thankful that even though I had given up on something that mattered to me, God had not given up on my idea. I am so grateful that he used Oasis of Hope to breathe new life into an old idea, and I am doubly thankful for the support of Terry, Terrice, and Martell in helping me bring it to life!

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