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HEAF students get a taste of what it's like to be an entrepreneur

Lattifah Walker. Special to the AmNews | 8/24/2012, 10:43 a.m.

After heightened violence this summer, many feel the community is not safe for children to play in without someone getting hurt. That's why one program that has been around for years, the Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF), continues to take the time to educate middle and high school students year-round.

In 1989, Daniel Rose started a partnership at one school to create a program that would make a difference among the youth in Harlem. Over the years, the fund has expanded to upper Manhattan, the Bronx and other boroughs. This year, HEAF held its annual Summer Quest program, serving 180 children grades six through nine from July 9 to Aug. 10, with the mission to raise their desire to gain knowledge, prepare students for competitive exams and refine academic development through project-based enrichment classes throughout the summer.

One Summer Quest class that the students enjoy taking is "Project Restaurant," which introduces eighth graders to the different elements involved in running a restaurant and encourages them to explore being entrepreneurs. Capital One Bank and Jean-Claude Baker of Chez Josephine have partnered with HEAF to make "Project Restaurant" an exciting learning experience.

"They have been a huge supporter of HEAF and we appreciate their help," said Tanya Wiggins, director of High Expectations, HEAF's middle school program.

Both businesses helped teach students the skills it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, from selecting menu items to calculating start-up costs, financing and equity options.

Once the students learn the restaurant business, they present their plans and ideas to representatives of Capital One Bank, who teach the students presentation skills needed for the business world today.

HEAF also continues to support its students after the summer is through because for HEAF students, college is not only an option, but the rule. Said Wiggins, "Our goal is to see students graduate [college], not just get them in."

According to HEAF, out of their 2012 high school senior class, 31 students have been accepted to 105 colleges and universities, and they earned $2.3 million in merit-based scholarships. Eighty-four percent of those colleges and universities were "most selective" and "more selective," according to U.S. News and World Report.

"Any opportunity to let students see what's happening in the real world and make it tangible is a good thing in my book," said Wiggins.