YEREVAN — In March, the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) of the American University of Armenia (AUA) will launch STRIVE Pre-U, an offshoot of its popular STRIVE program. STRIVE Pre-U is a condensed 8-week program specially designed for graduating 12th-grade high school students preparing to enter university. It will introduce students to the world of entrepreneurship and, more importantly, the entrepreneurial way of thinking, otherwise known as the growth mindset.

Alisa Chalakhyan (BAB ’19), STRIVE program leader, explains, “We have had several graduating high school students participating in the mainstream STRIVE program with much success. So we thought, ‘why not design an offshoot for the most eager and enthusiastic students that are getting ready to enter university?’” The program will likewise focus on mindset to establish open, flexible thinking and resilience in our younger generation: a way of thinking that will allow them to adapt and thrive in a constantly evolving Armenia and the world by developing entrepreneurial attitudes, behaviors, and skills. “It’s all about developing the thinking and skills to solve problems, mobilize resources, be innovative, and contribute to society in a multiplicity of ways, “Chalakhyan elaborates. With a new program focusing solely on high school students, EPIC aims to provide them with first-hand experience in a university setting before starting the next chapter in their lives.

Using an experiential, problem-based methodology, the program will encourage participants to apply what they learn in real-world, resource-constrained settings. STRIVE Pre-U is open to 12th-grade high school students who have no prior experience in entrepreneurship or startups but who are eager to learn and are open to new ideas and approaches. The program aims to help high school students develop valuable skills, build confidence, and create a positive impact.

STRIVE is designed to serve as the first stage in the startup journey of aspiring Armenian entrepreneurs. It is where talented individuals first familiarize themselves with entrepreneurship and begin understanding what it takes to succeed. “Entrepreneurs are trained to think a certain way. When others see a problem, entrepreneurs see an opportunity. Our new program will seek to strengthen participants’ leadership skills, interpersonal traits, and emotional intelligence, thereby planting seeds for growing creativity and critical thinking to identify and solve problems. As we all know, when it comes to entrepreneurship, it is not about what you think but about how you think,” states Sona Martirosyan, who will lead the STRIVE Pre-U program. Sona, a program assistant at STRIVE, is experienced in curriculum development and leading cohorts at the Startup School program organized by Startup Armenia Foundation for middle and high schoolers.

“I took part in the second batch of the STRIVE program as a junior student at AUA. At some point in the program, I caught myself thinking, ‘if only STRIVE were available when I was in high school.’ The more I learned about entrepreneurship, the more confident I became with my thoughts. I’m glad my younger friends will have the opportunity to do so now,” says Azat Harutyunyan, one of the graduates of the STRIVE program. Azat is now participating in EPIC’s Incubation program after forming a startup team during the EPIC Jam ideathon.

Registration for the program is now open. Application deadline is extended to March 10. Graduating high school students in Armenia have a unique opportunity with STRIVE Pre-U.

STRIVE is the first-of-its-kind pre-incubation program in the Armenian startup ecosystem. Designed to engage participants from all walks of life, regardless of prior work experience or the existence (or not) of a startup idea, the program aims to shape aspiring founders’ mindset by helping them define, analyze, and test the most fundamental concepts of entrepreneurship and innovation.

The Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) is a platform of the American University of Armenia (AUA) for promoting entrepreneurial education, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and startup venture incubation. EPIC provides an ecosystem for emerging entrepreneurs consisting of first-class facilities and collaborative workspace, programs and events, and a network of mentors, advisors, and investors. EPIC fosters the understanding and application of entrepreneurship in students and faculty at AUA to craft high-impact multidisciplinary ventures.

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