Programs at CU Boulder, CU Denver light pathways to innovation for high school students

Entrepreneurship efforts engage communities across state

Programs at CU Boulder, CU Denver light pathways to innovation for high school students
Winners of the High School New Venture Challenge.

In the bustling state of Colorado, where the Rockies paint a stunning backdrop to the cities of Boulder and Denver, a story of entrepreneurial passion unfolds. It involves two exceptional initiatives, the High School New Venture Challenge (HSNVC) at CU Boulder and Business Bound at CU Denver.

While distinct in their strategies, both programs have the same goal. They are connecting high school students with their communities and cultivating entrepreneurial mindsets that span beyond basic business finance to creative problem-solving. Each initiative plays a pivotal role in fostering young innovators across Colorado.

Stan Hickory, director of the CU Boulder Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative and the High School New Venture Challenge, called the initiative an entrepreneurial “flight simulator.” It’s propelling future CU Boulder students into the world of startups through events, mentorship and a pitch competition with over $100,000 on the line.

“The objective is to enhance the connection between students and their rural communities by fostering local mentorship during their engagement with the HSNVC,” Hickory said. "We want to establish a route to higher education, allowing them to acquire additional knowledge and skills in entrepreneurship and leadership. Ultimately, these students can come back to their communities as influential leaders within the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

The New Venture Challenge will expand beyond campus next year with a high school competition reaching schools in Lafayette, Longmont, Westminster, Colorado Springs and Aurora. Hickory looks to rural school districts and areas with higher numbers of underrepresented students, with plans to offer scholarships to make CU Boulder a beacon for budding entrepreneurs.

Across the city in Denver, Madhavan Parthasarathy, Ph.D., leads Business Bound at the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship in the CU Denver Business School. Emphasizing the CU Denver campus’s urban focus, Business Bound targets students who are curious about pathways to entrepreneurial and academic success.

Programs at CU Boulder, CU Denver light pathways to innovation for high school students
Madhavan Parthasarathy, Ph.D., talks with students at Business Bound.

“We partnered with Junior Achievement to offer this program because experiential learning experiences like this are critical for young students to discover their passions, build transferable skills and explore their academic and professional options before they have to decide on their path to college,” said Clair Seville (Sims), assistant director of operations at the Jake Jabs Center.

This energetic program, in partnership with Junior Achievement, is tailored to urban students, hosting 55 high school students for a week of experiences. Led by successful business leaders and entrepreneurs, including Jake Jabs himself, students dove into the complex workings of the world of business. They were immersed in a simulated CEO experience in the phone industry, learning decision-making, strategic analysis and the art of competition. Notably, students also earned one college credit hour at CU Denver, setting them on a path of entrepreneurial and academic excellence.

This year, the collaborative efforts between the High School New Venture Challenge and Business Bound aim to support high school students across Colorado. The overarching objective of these programs is to prepare and equip the upcoming generation with the skills, knowledge and adaptability needed for a quickly changing job landscape.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs survey, half of today’s work activities could be automated by 2055, necessitating new skills and perspectives. Entrepreneurship-focused programs, like the NVC and Business Bound, offer a way for students to navigate this uncertain future. They teach crucial life skills – problem-solving, teamwork, empathy, and resilience in the face of failure. Both programs emphasize that the next generation of entrepreneurs will have to emerge through collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication skills.

The leaders and staff behind these two initiatives recognize the importance of investing in high school students. They are not only shaping the entrepreneurs of the future; they are equipping young minds with the tools to take on new challenges and carve out a path in an ever-changing world.

To learn more, go to  and