D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy Selected for Hamilton Challenge

D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy students interested in becoming business leaders will have the chance to sharpen their entrepreneurship skills through a week-long program.

The innovative lab school has been selected as a pilot for the Hamilton Challenge, a youth entrepreneurship initiative sponsored by The Brian Hamilton Foundation. The challenge will encourage students in grades 6-8 to develop basic skills to launch their own small businesses.

The nonprofit foundation is partnering with D.C. Virgo and the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) to incorporate the challenge into the school’s classes. D.C. Virgo is a K-8 year-round public school operated by UNCW Watson College of Education and New Hanover County Schools.

Foundation founder Brian Hamilton will visit D.C. Virgo on April 8 at 10 a.m. to kick off the challenge. Hamilton sold his company, Sageworks, last year in one of the largest exits in North Carolina history. Hamilton grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in Connecticut, started a landscaping business to pay his way through college and business school and owned a few coin laundromats before starting Sageworks. His story could be anyone’s story, which is why he believes so fervently in the power of teaching young people that entrepreneurship is something they can do. The foundation’s Future Entrepreneur Tour has reached thousands of students in North Carolina in the last several months.

D.C. Virgo students expressed an interest in learning more about business, innovation and invention, said William Sterrett, interim associate dean for teacher education and outreach in the Watson College of Education.

“The DC Virgo and UNCW relationship is special because it supports unique, specific opportunities, like this collaborative effort with the Hamilton Foundation, to bolster student success,” said Sterrett. “We look forward to this event helping us realize the D.C. Virgo focus on the whole child and opportunities that extend to the UNCW campus and broader community.”

CIE staff also are developing a partnership with DC Virgo to integrate the center’s programming and entrepreneurial educational opportunities into the school’s offerings, said Laura Brogdon-Primavera, CIE manager of programs and operations.

“When we met with the Hamilton Foundation, we thought this would be the perfect audience to test the Hamilton Challenge with and build on other CIE and community initiatives such as the YEPex Youth Summit,” said Brogdon-Primavera. “Working with the Hamilton Foundation, which focuses on grades 6-8, really supports developing a larger pipeline of young innovators to inspire creativity and an entrepreneurial mindset earlier in their education.”

The CIE launched a new youth entrepreneurship program this academic year called YEPex for students in grades 9-12. The year-long program is an expansion of the Chancellor’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship High School Competition and the Youth Entrepreneurship Program founded by the Cameron School of Business. Participants in the Hamilton Challenge will attend the YEPex Youth Summit and the competition on April 12, where they will be able to hear high school students pitch their startup ideas.

The partnership incorporates many of the goals outlined in UNCW’s Strategic Plan including community engagement and capitalization on key partnerships.

— Venita Jenkins

About The Brian Hamilton Foundation

The Brian Hamilton Foundation was established with one principle in mind: with the right resources and support, anyone can be a successful entrepreneur. We are helping youth, veterans and other underserved populations start and run their own businesses. Our hope is to help people take part in the American dream and climb the social and economic ladder. To learn more, visit brianhamilton.org.