Yvonne Thomas’ non-profit organization Jumping into a Vision, Inc., recently hosted the second annual Building Up CEOs to encourage young people ages 5-19 to think about starting their own business and share their idea in an open forum.
BY KARIN DAVIS-THOMPSON, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — When Yvonne Thomas moved to St. Petersburg several years ago, she wanted to immediately embrace her new community and find a way to give back. So, she started volunteering with the school system, talking to youth about their goals and dreams for the future.
As she got to know the students, a theme began to emerge.
“A lot of them started talking about a business idea they had,” Thomas said. “They wanted to start their own business.”
She then began to notice the increase in violence and shootings and felt the youth was slipping away. Add to that the negative talk Thomas heard from many adults who often focused more on a child’s mistakes and not their accomplishments, and she felt she had to do something.
Thomas had an idea to create an environment where she could encourage adults to work together to support the youth and provide a platform for young people to express themselves and share their goals and dreams. She decided the best way to do it was to start a non-profit, and Jumping into a Vision, Inc. was born.
“I decided on the name because I want to educate the youth with a new vision,” the 53-year-old said.
Recently, the non-profit hosted the second annual Building Up CEOs. The idea is to encourage young people ages 5-19 to think about starting their own business and share their idea in an open forum.
“It teaches them to talk about their business and what their dreams and goals are to grow it,” Thomas explained. “Some already have a website and have already started their business; others have an idea they are working on.”
This year, 15 young people presented their business or idea to about 70 attendees. The youngest was seven and already in business doing hair and nails.
Another participant, 14, wanted to be a chef with a catering company and shared a chicken dish. And another student, at 10 years old, was already a published author with three books.
There’s no pressure or format that the students have to follow. They can bring props or a presentation if they wish, but it isn’t required.
“We just let them get up and get comfortable and confident talking about their business,” Thomas said.
The event, held at the Thomas “Jet” Jackson Recreation Center last month, also included vendors that participants could talk to about their businesses and how they started.
Thomas said she hopes to host more events, find ways to unite youth and adults and educate parents on the tools available to help their children succeed.
“We have to bring back the village,” she said. “It takes all of us working together to make sure our children succeed. They are dealing with so much — school, mental health challenges — they need to know that we support them and that they are not alone.”
To learn more about Jumping into a Vision, Inc., visit the group’s Facebook page or email Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.