Clay Tufly, Alpine Bank
2018 Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman of the Board

Helping Students Become CEOs

Let’s be honest… how many of us in middle or high school ever considered owning and/or running a business? And if we did, it was probably because we had a father, mother or other close relative that was in business. Yet the reality is that many of the students sitting in classrooms today will either work for someone in business or be a business owner.

Giving students the opportunity to learn about business and actually start one of their own, now, with help from all of us, gives them the skills now that will serve them well in business in the future. The Young Entrepreneurs Academy Program was embraced by this Chamber five years ago as a way to help young people discover that they have what it takes to start a business… maybe even multiple businesses in the future.

The program requires commitment… a lot of commitment. Not only must students be willing to work hard and attend three-hour classes once a week for 25 weeks but we, the business community, must also commit to being teachers, mentors, and investors.

By now many of you have heard that our Saunders Scholar, Nick Silzell, a middle schooler from the GJ Chamber program went on to win the People’s Choice Award and a $20,000 scholarship at the YEA! National Competition last month in Rochester, NY. He competed against the best of the best from 176 other YEA! programs and we are proud of him. But we are also proud of the seven other budding entrepreneurs that started businesses this year and the 25 previous participants in this program that started businesses. And I’m particularly proud of our many sponsors and supporters who made this program what it is today and continue to support it.

Recruitment has begun for our sixth class which starts in early October. If you know of a middle or high school student that would be a good fit call the office, 970.242.3214 and we will personally reach out to them. Class size is limited and we already have applications so it is not too soon. Recruitment is also starting for business people willing to help with instruction, host field trips and act as mentors. And, finally, we are also looking for funders to help provide seed money for these ventures and scholarships for those who need. For more information or to volunteer, e-mail Darcy Weir at (

We were all kids once… it is up to us to show the kids of today the thrill of being successful in commerce. As one of our Chamber guiding principals notes, “A healthy community is dependent upon a sustainable economy.”  YEA! is one way we work toward that principal.

2018 YEA! Graduation Grand Junction, Colorado

2018 YEA! Graduation Grand Junction, Colorado

360 Grand Avenue | Grand Junction, Colorado | (970) 242-3214
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