The Bay Area is known as a thriving startup community. But Suzanne McKechnie Klahr was struck by the inequality she saw there while working as a pro-bono lawyer in East Palo Alto. She wanted to make it easier for those with disadvantaged backgrounds to both get a good education and to find support for their small businesses. So in 1999 she founded BUILD, a nonprofit which gives entrepreneurial support and funding to disconnected high-schoolers with small business ideas.
BUILD now serves more than 930 students in three cities across the country, providing small business classes and start-up funding to the kids most likely to drop out of high school. “We are looking for students who were truant and had low test scores in middle school,” McKechnie Klahr says. “We want to engage them as soon as they get into 9th grade because disengagement in 9th grade is highly predictive of dropping out of high school.” Such intervention has already been successful. According to the folks at BUILD, 99 percent of seniors in the program have graduated from high school and 95 percent have been accepted to college.