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Mayors' Youth Council Members Learn Business Skills Through New UM Organization

North Farmington High alumna Aashka Soni is piloting an entrepreneurship program with the student organization.

Teens from the Farmington/Farmington Hills Mayors’ Youth Council are learning critical business skills during their mentorship in the Detroit Entrepreneurship Network (DEN) this school year.

DEN is a student organization, based on the campus of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, which aims to equip high school students with the business knowledge needed for real-world success.

Aashka Soni, a native of the Farmington Hills community and former member of the Mayors’ Youth Council, is the co-founder and director of DEN and chose to start her program, which is in its pilot stage, in her hometown with students from her former youth group.

“I am thrilled to be able to bring DEN to pilot with my hometown,” said Soni. “Farmington Hills is a great community to pilot with, because both the students and adults are excited and engaged in the process. The community is not only interested in its own welfare, but also with the city of Detroit. That’s something special.”

In DEN, the high school students attend five workshops, one per month. Each workshop consists of speakers, skill-building activities, discussions and project planning, all while focusing on a particular core value of business. Soni said she hopes her workshops will provide her students with enough business knowledge to render the kind of professional success that can one day help a city like Detroit.

“Each time a young entrepreneur shelves an idea due to lack of resources, confidence and connections, we as a global community are worse off,” explained Soni. “We designed our workshops to develop real world skills that will translate into real world success.”

“The city of Detroit is building back up, and we want our students to be able to experience the energy there and help in the brain gain.”

This term’s first workshop was at the Madison Building in Detroit in September, featuring keynote speakers from Bizdom U.

Mrudhula Tankasla, a high school senior who holds one of the tri-chair positions in the Mayors’ Youth Council, is participating in DEN this year. The future business major said DEN is helping her to understand what her field of interest is like in the real world.

“It really helps me see what it is like outside of a classroom setting. It helps me see the reality of it,” said Tankasla. “I believe that we’re being taught how to think independently, how to act fast on your feet, as well as be creative. And throughout this whole process, we will acquire a new sense of confidence which can be used in any career field.”

Coming workshops will cover such skills as finding your target audience, utilizing technology and working on your pitch. Tankasla said, “I truly hope to gain more leadership and confidence skills as I will definitely need them in college.”  

--by Daniel Dumas

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