SDNB's Annual Pitch Night for High School Entrepreneurial Skills Accelerator Features Regional Leaders

Student teams from the School District of New Berlin’s Advanced Innovation and Design program presented their culminating “pitch” to an audience of parents, friends, industry representatives, higher education leaders, community members and elected officials June 6.

Students were tasked with coming up with a unique solution to a regional issue. Most of the challenges asked them to “think digitally” as the “world of work” is moving in that direction.

Ed Javier, co-Founder of Milwaukee Startup Week, who is charged with creating a regional ecosystem that supports aspiring entrepreneurs and helps them bring their products to market, was among the guest speakers.

“It is great that your district is providing you with this opportunity,” Javier said. “However, I am a little nervous because this means the region needs to be ready to provide even more resources with this type of talent coming up the pipeline!”

The SDNB has partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Lubar Entrepreneurship Center and TheCommons in response to post-secondary education and industry representatives calling for more purposeful development of the skills needed in a world where creativity, collaboration, communication and problem solving skills will be paramount to success.

The UWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center advised on curriculum development and provides a series of "pop-up classes" to provide participants exposure to university faculty. Students who complete the program are able to submit their final portfolio for up to 3 college credits through the UWM Lubar School of Business.

“We want every student at UWM to be able to experience this type of programming because it develops skills that will serve them well regardless of what they choose to do in the future,” said Brian Thompson, Director of the UWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center. “We are honored to be able to support school districts in their efforts to do the same.”

The Advanced Innovation and Design program provides upperclassman the freedom and flexibility to approach their education in a way that is different from traditional classes and demonstrate their ability to leverage their knowledge to address an open-ended challenge based on real world problems. The challenges, which encourage innovative thinking in the areas of global business, social change, technology, engineering, retail, and healthcare, were developed by The Commons, a regional collegiate entrepreneurial skills accelerator.

“There is such a need for this type of programming across the state,” said Joe Poeschl, Program Director for the Commons. “And while we currently focus on college students, programs like the one in New Berlin have proven that high school students are up to the challenge and we are looking for ways to build capacity across the region to support those that want to start programs of their own.”

Business professionals volunteer their time as team mentors, lending their expertise to the teams as they work through the scope and sequence of the course, which is based on Stanford's Lean LaunchPad curriculum. In comparison to traditional courses that teach students how to execute strategies for known business models, the Lean LaunchPad curriculum teaches students how to search for a scalable and repeatable business model designed to solve a problem. This supports the region's interest in developing more entrepreneurs as well as intrapreneurs, or those that infuse innovation into the organizations in which they work.

This year, mentors stepped forward to help from JDA Software, Concurrency, Northwestern Mutual, Advancing AI Wisconsin, Global View Capital Advisors, BrightStar Care, Radom Corp., GPS Education Partners, Generac and JBK Consultants.

“We are so thankful for all of those willing to mentor our future generation of innovators. The real world connections they provide are powerful and critical to the overall objectives for the program,” said the SDNB’s Laura Schmidt.

Professionals interested in assisting in a mentorship/advisor role should contact and are encouraged to visit the district's iAID web page

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