WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, 19 rising high school seniors from nine Appalachian states began the Appalachian Entrepreneurship Academy (AEA)—a 12-month, free, blended learning curriculum featuring working modules led by regional experts in business planning, market analysis, product development and other entrepreneurial services.

As part of the program, students will participate in a four-week summer intensive online training, continue training over the academic year, and meet in Pittsburgh, Penn., for a final capstone pitch event in July 2021.

“The creation of new, innovative opportunities in our region through entrepreneurial enterprises will be a key factor in our communities’ economic growth and recovery, particularly in light of COVID’s impact,” said ARC Federal co-chairman Tim Thomas. “While this inaugural session of the Appalachian Entrepreneurship Academy was intended to be an in-person experience, the impressive flexibility and ingenuity shown by our partners and participants will make this virtual program rewarding and beneficial for these promising students.”

Participants for this program were chosen via a competitive region wide application process. This year’s AEA class includes students from Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. As part of enrollment, students will receive tech support, materials, and other resources to participate in all aspects of the program. Each student will also receive a formal Certificate of Completion at the end of the program, and opportunities to receive industry-recognized certificates and/or college-credit. The Appalachian Entrepreneurship Academy is sponsored by ARC and made possible by the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL). The program, originally conceptualized as a three-week residential training in Pittsburgh, was restructured in light of the COVID-19 crisis.