Robinson Center honored for Youth Entrepreneur Program

by Notre Dame News

Robinson Community Learning Center

The Robinson Community Learning Center (RCLC) Youth Entrepreneur Program has won the 2010 Key Award for Services Program of the Year from the Indiana Association for Community Economic Development and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

Indiana Lt. Governor Becky Skillman presented the award to Jay Caponigro, director of community engagement at the University of Notre Dame, last week during the Statewide Conference on Housing and Community Economic Development Awards Luncheon.

The Key Award for Supportive Services Program of the Year honors excellence and innovation in a service-oriented community development initiative. Award winners need to demonstrate leadership in the area of service provision/volunteerism, and provide a unique program model for other organizations within Indiana.

Through a partnership with the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame, Key Bank of Northern Indiana, the South Bend School Corporation and local business owners, the Robinson Center has provided a comprehensive Youth Entrepreneurship Program for the past five years. The program attracts a diverse array of participants from the community. Through its Summer BizCamp, as well as entrepreneurship classes in high schools or at the Robinson Center, the RCLC Youth Entrepreneurship program offers students the chance to learn and apply the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) curriculum in a collaborative and supportive environment. Students completing the program present their completed business plans in competition at the annual “Invention Convention” at Notre Dame.

A supplemental training and mentoring program called Robinson Enterprises also provides students with hands-on business experience through activities such as RCLC football parking and vending, and ongoing support for those starting youth-run businesses. Notre Dame students serve as mentors to the Youth Entrepreneurs, as well as judges for the Invention Convention contest.

The RCLC Youth Entrepreneur program includes not only instruction in financial literacy and entrepreneurship concepts, but the creation of business experiences wherein young entrepreneurs can “cut their teeth” on common business problems and activities such as sales, customer service, operations, supervision and record keeping—skills and experiences that ultimately will enable them to compete in the open marketplace.

The RCLC was started in 2001 as a community-driven education center sponsored by Notre Dame in collaboration with community residents and partners.

The center offers a number of programs and activities sponsored by local agencies and organizations, including afterschool tutoring, a youth Shakespeare company, the Take Ten violence prevention program, computer instruction, GED and English-as-a-new language classes. More than 500 residents and volunteers participate each week in on-site RCLC programming, and as many as 250 Notre Dame students, faculty and staff volunteer with center programs.

Contact: Jennifer Knapp Beudert, manager, Robinson Center, 574-631-2686; or Duane Wilson, program director for advanced skills, entrepreneurship and technology, 574-631-8410