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EPG: grooming our own leaders in Appalachia

This summer, Entrepreneurship for the Public Good (EPG) is training students in both business and community leadership. The program supplies young entrepreneurs with the abilities to strengthen their local communities. The work they are doing promotes a sense of pride in our region while also boosting the economy.

EPG Cohort 7

EPG has been bringing Berea students, faculty, and community members together for the past eight years. During the summer months, the program’s summer institute promotes learning, engagement, and achievement in promising young entrepreneurs through an intense eight-week program. Students must participate for two summers. At the end of their second, those who demonstrate development in applying what they have learned are awarded the distinction of EPG Fellow.

This summer, one team of EPG Fellow candidates is working to expand and promote the local food system economy. They are doing this by looking into food security, healthy living, farmers markets, and helping local farmers see the value of the food they produce. They are also incorporating different community assets like entertainment and art along with food. Using Kentucky’s rich agriculture, students hope to use what the state already has to offer for the benefit of communities and the economy. This group, consisting of both Appalachian and international students, is currently working in Hazard, Ky. to help establish a more efficient local food system in the region.

“One of the things that we will all gain from this experience is that we have learned that having a good idea is not enough to become successful entrepreneurs. A good business plan, a solid network and a deep understanding of the cultural environment are essential”, said junior Business major Noel Toni, a member of Cohort 7.

The remaining three EPG groups are working on promoting tourism within the state, which is one of Kentucky’s largest industries — the seventh largest, with an annual expenditure of $11 billion. They are drawing on the strengths of Kentucky — its cultural heritage, arts and crafts, music and natural environment. By using what Kentucky already offers to boost the local economy, the EPG program is promoting a sense of community and pride in the state.

Creating the Berea Artist Studio Cell Phone Tour is one way the group hopes to accomplish this.

“Berea Tourism is innovating its marketing strategy to be ahead of the trends,” says junior Sociology major and EPG member Johauna Gosney.

EPG students are dedicated, as a regular day can easily be filled from eight in the morning until ten at night. This hard work is meant to build character and leadership skills which will be useful for the rest of their lives.

“We have an unconventional academic schedule, but it is just what is needed to get used to what it is like to be an entrepreneur,” shared Toni, from Cote d'Ivoire..

The EPG program was the brainchild of President Shinn, and integrates entrepreneurship and leadership within the Appalachian region. The program runs on the idea that we can grow our own leaders here in Appalachia for the benefit of those individuals and the region as a whole. By broadening the mindset of talented students within the context of this region, the EPG program provides students with abilities which can transcend industry and be applied throughout one’s life.

These abilities, when applied, are intended to allow students to recognize a needed change within a community and also influence others in that community to commit to realizing that change – the definition of entrepreneurial leadership, as defined by the program.

First learning these skills in the Berea community with the guidance of Director Peter Hackbert and Program Coordinator David Cooke, students then branch out to the wider area of Eastern Kentucky to put their skills to use.

“The Entrepreneurship for the Public Good program is a learning experience that goes beyond the classroom into the real world,” said Gosney.

By using the strengths of dedicated young entrepreneurs and supplying them with the abilities to create change in our state, the EPG program continues to be an important part of Berea College and the community as a whole. Consisting of both Appalachian and international students, working to improve our region on both an economic and community level, the EPG program is a representation of Berea College’s mission.

To find out more about the EPG program, visit the EPG home page.

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