Local Middle Students Find Their 'Niche' in Business Through YEA!

  • Vicarious Multimedia President Melanie Santostefano presents an educational session on marketing and public relations to D15 YEA! students.

    Vicarious Multimedia President Melanie Santostefano presents an educational session on marketing and public relations to D15 YEA! students. Courtesy of Palatine Area Chamber of Commerce

Submitted by Vicarious Public Relations
Updated 12/9/2019 12:13 PM

The Palatine Area Chamber of Commerce is kicking off another year of the Young Entrepreneur's Academy (YEA!) with District 15 middle school students. This national program educates students on how to start and run their own businesses.

During their most recent educational session, the 22 participating students were introduced to Melanie Santostefano, president of Arlington Heights-based Vicarious Multimedia, a firm that specializes in marketing communications and public relations.


YEA! students learned about all aspects of marketing and public relations, including how to identify and reach target markets, how to effectively communicate value propositions for services or products, information about social media marketing/advertising and the pros and cons of niche markets.

"Playing a part in educating and enlightening future entrepreneurs through YEA! is something I have been committed to over the last several years, and I truly enjoy it," Santostefano said.

"It's exciting to help open the eyes of these budding entrepreneurs to give them a glimpse into the business world. I was inspired by the students' engagement and interest during our session."

As part of the YEA! program, students are introduced to all facets of business, including, but not limited to, marketing, advertising, insurance, graphic design and web development.

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They also conduct market research based on their unique business and develop business plans with help from a group of dedicated mentors that meet with them weekly for a period of eight weeks.

Over the course of this year's Palatine/D15 YEA! program, participating students will launch 19 businesses; some of the 22 students have paired up to work together.

As a nonprofit organization, YEA! relies on the community's generosity and sponsors, including people who want to encourage entrepreneurship and help pave the way for the business leaders of tomorrow.

"YEA! strengthens the community, and the community strengthens YEA!," said YEA! founder and CEO Gayle Jagel.

"Our program managers and instructors seek out people in the business community that are incented to help the dreams of these students become a reality."


During the 30-week program, dozens of businesses are involved with YEA! at various levels. Students work in close cooperation with business leaders, community leaders and educators who utilize their personal experiences to demonstrate how to transform ideas into tangible businesses that create economic and social value.

The YEA! program is managed by the Palatine Area Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director Steven Gaus. To get involved or to learn more about sponsorship opportunities, call (847) 359-7200 or email sgaus@palatinechamber.com.

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is a 501(C)3 offering groundbreaking, yearlong classes that teach middle and high school students how to start and run their own businesses. Throughout the class, students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch their plans to a panel of investors for startup funds, and launch and run their own, fully formed companies and social movements.

The project-based program empowers students to take charge of their futures.

Founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester with support from the Kauffman Foundation, YEA! today serves thousands of students nationwide.

In 2011, the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation became a national sponsor and partner of the academy to help celebrate the spirit of enterprise among today's youth and tomorrow's future leaders.

For information, visit yeausa.org.

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