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A new partnership between Entrepreneurship for All Northwest Arkansas and Springdale Schools is introducing entrepreneurship and business representation to students, providing students with essential skills while promoting diversity and inclusion through engaging role models.

The program launched at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year but was publicly announced on Feb. 15. It takes a multifaceted approach, including an entrepreneur speaker series and a pitch competition for juniors in seniors.

Each high school will host an internal competition to select finalists who will then compete in a district-wide competition scheduled for April 5.

“We are excited to collaborate with the Springdale Schools and the Tyson Family Foundation to bring this innovative program to Springdale students,” said Rodrigo Salas, EforAll NWA’s executive director. “By connecting students with local entrepreneurs and creating opportunities for them to showcase their own ideas, we aim to ignite a passion for entrepreneurship and empower students to realize their full potential.”

EforAll NWA, one of several EforAll branches across the country, provides free mentorship, training and other support for both English- and Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs, with a particular emphasis on assisting underserved communities.

Extensive research highlights the significance of early exposure to diverse role models in shaping children’s career aspirations, consistently demonstrating that aspirations are influenced by factors such as gender, race, and socioeconomic status, according to the announcement. Recognizing this, EforAll NWA and Springdale Schools are dedicated to offering students the opportunity to connect with role models who reflect their identities.

“We believe that providing students with real-world insights from entrepreneurs who reflect the diversity of our community is a powerful way to inspire and encourage the next generation of business leaders,” said Olivia Tyson, President, Tyson Family Foundation. “The Tyson Family Foundation is proud to partner with EforAll in this impactful initiative.”

The approach also fits within several of the Northwest Arkansas Council’s initiatives, including EngageNWA, which works to make the region a welcoming and thriving one for residents of all backgrounds, and StartupNWA, which aims to support a diverse and vibrant local economy. CareersNWA also works closely with Springdale Public Schools and other districts in efforts like career fairs and apprenticeships.

“We are thrilled about this partnership with EforAll NWA,” said Rodney Ellis, the district’s workforce training director. “Providing our students with exposure to diverse role models and hands-on entrepreneurial experiences aligns with our commitment to fostering well-rounded, innovative leaders for the future. We look forward to the positive impact this program will have on our students’ academic and personal development.”