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Teenager Brings an Entrepreneur’s Focus to the Challenge of Assisting Foster Youth

NAWBO Rising Star of the Year Jessica Lindsey puts San Marcos High School Entrepreneurship Academy lessons into practice

In honor of being named a NAWBO Rising Star of the Year, Jessica Lindsey, right, was presented with a $500 Cox scholarship from Cox public affairs manager Kirsten McLaughlin. Click to view larger
In honor of being named a NAWBO Rising Star of the Year, Jessica Lindsey, right, was presented with a $500 Cox scholarship from Cox public affairs manager Kirsten McLaughlin. (Lindsey family photo)

[Noozhawk’s note: An editing error incorrectly identified Jessica Martinez’s graduation year at San Marcos High School. The story has been corrected below.]

While many teenagers throw themselves enthusiastically into community service, a new San Marcos High School senior took a slightly different direction during her junior year.

Jessica Lindsey put what she had learned as a student in the school’s Entrepreneurship Academy and applied it to the creation of a social program that aids Santa Barbara-area foster youth.

She also led a group of her peers as they developed a financial literacy campaign that helped educate more than 240 high school students.

For her efforts, Lindsey was awarded a Rising Star of the Year from the Santa Barbara chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, or NAWBO. The honor was bestowed during the organization’s first-ever BRAVO Awards in March.

In addition, Lindsey’s foster youth program received a $3,000 grant from the Youth Making Change Foundation.

“When I think of an aspiring young entrepreneur, Miss Lindsey is one of those students who resonates with me because of her ability to see a problem as a challenge and not a deterring factor,” said Sergio Villa, one of her teachers at the Entrepreneurship Academy.

Lindsey has a slight frame. She keeps a strong and steady gaze above her welcoming smile and talks quickly, often making jokes at her own expense. A maturity and seriousness creeps into her otherwise youthful appearance when she talks about her efforts at the academy.

The program that she and her classmates developed is called BOA, or Building Opportunities for Achievement.

“We started a project by thinking, ‘What in our community is lacking that could use the money?’” Lindsey told Noozhawk.

“We ended up researching statistics about foster children, and we saw what a huge need there was for some sort of program, money or help for kids who weren’t graduating high school or continuing on.” 

After the idea came the execution. Lindsey and her classmates had to write up a grant proposal and create a budget for all of the activities they hoped the program could offer.

“I was the person who did the public speaking and pitched the idea to the (Youth Making Change board),” she said.

“We practiced every day in front of our class,” she added. “Every other time we practiced, it would be good, then I would forget everything. Finally I got to a point where it was a five-minute pitch and I knew it like the back of my hand.”

The group ended up earning $3,000 from Youth Making Change, the most money that could be awarded in a grant from the teen-led program administered through The Fund for Santa Barbara.

The program will be held after-school or on weekends. It will feature a public speaking workshop with Mark Brody, a teacher at the Entrepreneurship Academy; a drug and alcohol education course; an AHA! Emotional Coping Skills and Teen Bonding Group; financial literacy planning workshops on job interviews and résumés; and The Key Class, which teaches business etiquette and life skills.

All of the workshops and classes will be run by volunteers.

“It’s kind of like all the resources we were given by being a part of the Entrepreneurship Academy,” Lindsey said. “We’re getting all of our connections and saying can you do the same service for these kids as you did for us?”

The purpose of the program is not only to be educational, but fun.

Even after she graduates next year, Lindsey hopes the program will continue to be passed down to the next class of juniors and seniors who join the Entrepreneurship Academy.

“Miss Lindsey’s accolades can be seen both in and out of the classroom,” Villa said in an earlier interview. “She plays for the girls softball team, participates with Young Leaders, and is continually looking at ways to better herself and those around her.”

NAWBO’s Rising Star of the Year Award was bestowed on Lindsey in light of these achievements. The award came with a $500 scholarship from Cox.

The other recipient was Ana Jimenez, a fellow San Marcos High student who was awarded a $500 scholarship from BOMA Investments LLC.

Noozhawk intern Ana Mezic​ can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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