ARC’s Appalachian Entrepreneurship Academy (AEA), developed in partnership with the Institute for Educational Leadership, prepares the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders and thinkers. Chosen via a competitive application process, rising high school seniors from across Appalachia are selected to participate in an intensive learning curriculum designed to cultivate creativity, sharpen business acumen, and develop skills essential for entrepreneurial success. As part of matriculation, AEA students receive tech support, materials, and other resources to participate in all aspects of the program. At completion, students will receive a formal Certificate of Completion, and opportunities to receive industry-recognized certificates and/or college-credit.
AEA’s first class applied in 2020 for what was originally conceptualized as a four-week, all expenses paid, residential experience in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania focusing on business planning, product development, and other entrepreneurial skills. Nineteen students from 9 Appalachian states were accepted. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 class pivoted to a 12-month, blended learning experience featuring modules led by regional experts. The training began with a 4-week summer session, and continued over the academic year with online professional coaching and networking with local and global business leaders. A final capstone pitch event is planned for July 2021 in Pittsburgh.