Sometimes you have to look back and see how far you’ve come to realize what you’ve accomplished.
Such was the case for Khalif El-Amin and his brother Que El-Amin, who 10 years ago founded the Young Enterprising Society, a Milwaukee group that exposed students to career and business opportunities in a part of the city that has been neglected.
They run a Summer Tech Plus program for high school students in the Milwaukee area. Classes, focusing on technology, entrepreneurship, public speaking, accounting and Java programming, continue through August 12.
The two brothers also expanded a commercial adult boot camp, called The Blueprint program, to Green Bay.
“We’re looking to bring it to the Madison market as well,” Khalif said.
Young Enterprising Society, often referred to as YES, grew out of brainstorming sessions Khalif and Que had a decade ago to inspire and help people.
Khalif graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and worked with his father in different entities, including a foster care agency and a group home. Que graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, moved to Chicago and Dallas for a while, then returned to Milwaukee.
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They realized there was a need for a group of young professionals and outreach to children.
“We noticed that a lot of the information, technology and learning was really outdated,” Khalif said.
They then launched science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) programs that reached more than 4,000 students in eight states.
“From the beginning, we’ve always intentionally included art. It’s the purest form of creative expression,” Khalif said.
The Blueprint program has helped over 70 companies. It provides $100,000 in seed capital and entrepreneurial and technology training to promising urban startups.
One of the success stories was TipaScRxipt, a Milwaukee startup that helps people with out-of-pocket prescription costs. He raised $500,000 in seed money, including $400,000 from Milwaukee-based Gateway Capital.
Years earlier, some of The Blueprint’s graduates had taken STEAM classes.
“It’s great to see the students mature into full-fledged business founders,” Khalif said.
Blueprint graduates often return to YES to provide updates on their progress. “It’s really the fuel that keeps us going,” Khalif said.
Year after year, the programs have made a difference in many lives.
“For me, it’s very humiliating,” Khalif said.
This year’s Summer Tech Plus program uses a Roblox gaming platform where users can create their own games online. The platform has millions of users around the world, many of them teenagers.
“It’s something they’re already interested in,” Khalif said. “We are very happy to be able to introduce many advanced technologies and to be able to communicate with students.”
YES specializes in helping people through small groups, in environments that are less structured than the traditional classroom or where they have the opportunity to explore more advanced topics.
“It’s really about laying the foundation for problem solving,” Que said.
The pandemic fueled interest in The Blueprint as people lost their jobs or worked from home. Entrepreneurship and education are two “equalizers” for bringing about change, according to Khalif.
“Our mission has been to mobilize resources for people,” he said.
The past 10 years have passed quickly, the brothers say, and there is still much to do.
“It was definitely a blessing. We in no way take this for granted,” Khalif said.