Much ado is made about communities being able to retain their brightest students after they go to college and then seek a place to land a job.

Members of Leadership Northshore and the East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce share the desire to keep the hard workers at home so they recently announced plans to host a Young Entrepreneurs Academy this autumn.

The YEA program is designed for students in sixth through 12th grades. For 30 weeks, they will work with local business leaders to “cultivate and research business ideas, write a business plan, pitch their plan to a panel of investors ... obtain funding, develop their brand, participate in a trade show at the end of the (program) and actually launch their enterprise.”

Program organizers said YEA participants learn to “make a job — not just take a job.”

“These kids are going to go off to college,” said Ann Bowser, of the East St. Tammany Chamber. “The thought is that they will go to college with some business experience and they’ll return to our area when they graduate and bring even more experience with them. Maybe one day, we can say that we have local businesses started by Youth Entrepreneur Academy graduates.”

Because this is the first year the YEA program will be in Slidell, Bowser said the chamber will hold a series of orientation programs in coming months and will speak with local parent/teacher groups and the like to spread the word. Students 11 to 18 years old can participate.

The program being offered at the East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce in Slidell will begin in November and last until May.

Students will meet once a week for three hours, and on occasional Saturday mornings, with instructors and mentors who will aid them in what Bowser called “a pretty strict and guided curriculum.” They will get up-close business experience that will aid them in becoming the “future leaders in the business community,” she added.

“We’re here for the business community,” Bowser said, “and with this program, we’re investing in that community through the youth of our area.”

There is an application process, and as many as 20 students will be accepted into the first class. The cost is $295 per person, and Bowser said some scholarships are available for those who show a keen interest but can’t afford it.

“This is for kids that are creative thinkers and who are self-motivated,” Bowser said.

YEA began in 2004 at the University of Rochester in New York with support from the Kauffman Foundation. Bowser said there are approximately 80 academies across the United States, with most being run by colleges, high schools and chambers of commerce.

Bowser said business mentors and a classroom facilitator are being sought to assist with the academy.

“The mentors will offer their expertise to the students, whether they are accountants, restaurant owners, whatever,” she said. As for the classroom facilitator, organizers would love to have a retired teacher fill the role. Otherwise, it probably will be a chamber employee, she said.

For information on the program, visit www.estchamber.com or call (985) 643-5678. Information on orientation seminars, mentors, specific starting dates and academy programming will be made available on the chamber’s website.