BUILD's mission is to use entrepreneurship to excite and propel disengaged, low-income students through high school to college success. Serving disadvantaged youth has been at the heart of BUILD's efforts since our organization was founded by attorney Suzanne McKechnie Klahr in 1999. Suzanne was teaching business entrepreneurship as part of a public service fellowship in East Palo Alto, California. One day, four Latino boys approached her for help. They wanted to drop out of high school and start a small business. After listening to their plans, she agreed to help them on two conditions: they stay in school and improve academically. Under her guidance, all four students went on to graduate from high school and enter college. This experience inspired Suzanne to found BUILD and offer a four-year program that targets disengaged high school students in low-income communities and uses entrepreneurship to motivate these students to excel in school and go to college.
In 2002, BUILD became a key player in school districts when it went into local high schools and began offering its entrepreneurship curriculum as a daily, credited class. By working closely with the partner schools and their teachers, BUILD began supplementing students' traditional education with the real-life experience of running their own small businesses. This unique experiential learning program increased students' self-confidence, taught them the value of critical academic skills, and motivated them to graduate and pursue post-secondary education. Teachers have seen the transformative effect of BUILD on their students in the classroom, and the schools experience decreased drop-out rates and see more students go on to college.
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