Students participating in the nonprofit CEOs of Tomorrow program are coming up with money-making ideas to solve real problems in their communities.

“It’s interesting, the depth of the social issues that are selected by these young people, clearly showing that these aren’t just adult issues,” said Roxie Hentz, the program’s founding executive director. “When we as adults move out of the way of our young people, the possibilities become endless.”

One group of youth entrepreneurs wanted to address the “school-to-prison pipeline” for children of color, Hentz said.

They named their summer project Break the Pipe, and sold customized sweatshirts and pencil pouches in the summer of 2017. They also donated a percentage of their profits to the Goodman Community Center to support their educational efforts related to this issue.

“And then [students] had educational workshops — which was quite amazing — to help people understand the school to prison pipeline, their role in it, and the impact on education,” Hentz said.

Break the Pipe sold 59 hoodies, 68 pencil pouches and donated $167 in school supplies. The students involved shared $786 in profits.

Madison-based CEOs for Tomorrow is in its second year, after several short-term youth projects were tested in 2017. Many students earn college credit, and most projects donated a portion of their proceeds.

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