Hallie Heiter's job at Battle Ground Academy in Franklin is to build the "job creators of tomorrow."
"We know the World Economic Forum says that 60% of today's jobs won't exist in the same form in 10 years," said the director of the private K-12 school's entrepreneurial leadership concentration. "So we have to create students that are very malleable and adjustable to the environment in which they're in."
The four-year concentration for high school students has paid off for its students since it was started five years ago.
Students learn both "soft" communication skills as well as more technical ones. They take a series of tailored courses, and then spend senior year assisting local businesses and pitching their own businesses.
Last month, eight groups of seniors gathered on the second floor of BGA's new Center for Arts and Entrepreneurship, which opened last year.
The groups pitched their business ideas to a panel of local professionals to win an imaginary $500,000.
Ideas ranged from on-demand care for children and adults with special needs to a filter that limits potentially harmful effects of fluorescent light. Students James Ford and Price Crabtree pitched an idea for GPS-tracked crossbow arrows for hunters.
Ford started the pitch with a personal childhood story about a father-son bow-hunting session in which a mistake in aim cost the duo the animal and money.
"Hunters do really care about hunting, and they do it mostly for conservation, and there was just a bad feeling because I lost the deer and my arrow," Ford said.
He made judges laugh and feel a sense of shared nostalgia, putting those soft skills in motion before getting down to business. His group's idea, he said, would solve for the large amount of deer and arrows lost by hunters each year.
Throughout the remainder of the year, the high school students will pitch to several panels of local professionals who then rank each group and provide some healthy competition as groups mend and mold their pitches in hopes of eventually coming out on top in a final pitch competition.
"I see some pretty big transformations," Heiter said. "It's always fun to watch that one or two teams that in that initial presentation I'm like, 'Oh, I don't know,' and then they completely blow me out of the water."
Kirk Kelso, a local print and publishing company owner and father of BGA students, was one of three to give students feedback that day.
"They were all excellent in different ways," he said. "I would definitely be ninth out of the top 10 at their age, so hats off to (Heiter) for getting them prepared.... They're brilliant young minds."
The startup turns carbon credits into non-fungible tokens or NFTs.
Morrison said his project brings security, accessibility and accountability to the process.
He said the BGA program instilled in him the determination to take this route, especially after having an interest in startups and problem solving as a child.
"I thought it'd be really interesting to give it a try and see if I did have an idea and the legs to push it," he said. "And doing it in a safer environment like (BGA) is pretty easy because you're able to try and see the process, which is worth a decent amount of classes.
"I think what I took away from it was that it's possible."
Alumni and current college freshmen Mila Pérez and Berkeley Allison are on the road to making their capstone project a reality. Their nutritional dental chew startup, Denta-Gone, recently made it to the semifinals of the Fordham Foundry pitch competition at Fordham University where Perez is a student.