The University of Central Arkansas’ Conductor has gifted 20 Faulkner County elementary schools with a set of four books to encourage students to open their minds to entrepreneurship, innovative initiatives and creativity.
Superintendents and principals from the 20 schools accepted the signed books, "Entrepreneur Kid" written by Erica Swallow, during a ceremony at the UCA Makerspace Thursday.
"Talent development is a major initiative of the conductor," Chief Catalyst Jeff Standridge said. "We think it’s very important for not only kids, but for their parents and teachers to understand that entrepreneurship is a viable career path and that even if they don’t see themselves as owning their own companies that established companies want to hire innovative entrepreneurial talent."
He said as part of the Conductor and UCA Makerspace, they try to build programs that help younger children and those around them to understand how to cultivate innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity.
When the "Entrepreneur Kid," books came along, Standridge said they jumped on the opportunity, especially because Swallow was from Arkansas and the book’s illustrator, Li Zeng, was a UCA faculty member.
"Much of that book was written and illustrated between here and Blue Sail Coffee so we saw it as an opportunity to not only support a local entrepreneur, but to do it in a way that supported the talent and development mission of the conductor," he said.
Swallow said growing up in Arkansas she did not have access to this specific type of knowledge and didn’t realize what the word entrepreneur even truly meant until she entered college.
"I really wanted to write a book for kids to show them that they can do things at their age, they don’t have to wait until they’re an adult," she said.
Swallow said she wants to change the fact that students often get asked the question: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
"I’d like to change that conversation to ‘What do you want to do now?’" she said. "What problems do you see around you that you think you can solve and you want to try?"
Swallow said after seeing several "wow" headlines in the media about younger kids doing great things, she realized she needed to write a book and wanted to normalize being an entrepreneur kids and make it as common as the desire to be a fireman or a ballerina.
"Entrepreneur Kid," is a set of four nonfiction books written about four young — between 7 years old and 14 years old — real-life kids, who have each gone on to have major success in the creation of their product or company.
"At the back of every book you can see photos of the kids," she said. "That’s the part that is most inspiring to kids is to read the stories and they say ‘wow that’s really cool, a kid did something’ but then they see that this is nonfiction … this is a real kid we’re talking about here is kind of the part that’s a little mind-blowing for young readers."
Swallow said she hopes these books inspire the next generation to come up with their own ideas and truly discover what they’re passionate about.
Carolyn Lewis Elementary Principal Tina Antley said the schools are excited and hopeful for what this new opportunity means for their students.
"It’s going to be a great thing for our students," she said. "Several of us have already implemented maker stations in our buildings so this is just going to help us take it to the next level."
At Carolyn Lewis, Antley said they have several students who display that entrepreneurship type of creative desire.
"We have a lot of students that are interested," she said. "It’s really part of the culture now. Younger and younger children are getting interested in being entrepreneurs so this is exciting."
Antley said she is grateful for the gift and the open-door attitude that all of the UCA Makerspace has expressed to them.
"It’s local, it’s accessible [and] it’s a great support for our schools and our students," she said.