MINNEAPOLIS (December 3, 2010) – Yvonne Cheung Ho, president and CEO of Metropolitan Economic Development Association, is enlisting other Twin Cities corporate executives and entrepreneurs of color to be involved in a one-of-a-kind, nationally innovative program created to introduce at-risk kids to the world of business.
Numerous mentoring programs around the country regularly match businesses with kids. The varied programs are critically important and often show positive results.
Few, if any of these initiatives involve the head of the company in a year-long effort to broaden the horizons of at-risk students through the world of business. MEDA has introduced an initiative that allows successful business men and woman to give back to their respective communities and at the same time help fill the gap where business and financial education is missing in primary and secondary education.
“I simply want my lesson plan to include other Twin Cities corporate executives and entrepreneurs of color in an interactive series of sessions with students,” said Cheung Ho. “By showcasing successful entrepreneurs of color, I want the students to ‘imagine the possibilities’ these business men and women now have because of their hard work and success.”
Cheung Ho received the Annual Leadership Award from the State Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans in 2006. In the acceptance speech she said the spirit of her experience and what she has learned from her parents, makes her believe in the importance of a good education, civic participation and voting for candidates who embrace and represent your values.
In an ambitious effort to prepare vulnerable children for rewarding careers in the future, Risen Christ School (www.risenchristschool.org), a 325-student, K-8 grade school located in the Powderhorn Park area of Minneapolis, has created an innovative program, Imagine the Possibilities.
More than 90 percent of RCS students come from families who are living either at or below the poverty line. Many of these students will become first-generation high school graduates. Because these students have limited contact with the world of business, the school believes they would benefit from personal interactions with business leaders.
Imagine the Possibilities program will pair the top executives from over a dozen companies with 8th-grade students. The business leaders/mentors would expressly design a project related to their field to be presented over the course of the school year to their group of students.
Cheung Ho has already scheduled three events for the students, introducing them to the entrepreneurs of color and allowing them to ask questions, and learn about the challenges and possibilities of entrepreneurship and business.
The first event held last month, featured a dialogue with Tony Williamson, a successful African American entrepreneur who started an IT consulting company with his wife in 1995. The company currently has revenues of $35 million.
The second event will include a presentation on January 7, 2011 by Cathy Cruz Gooch, a third generation Mexican American woman, whose family owns Catallia Mexican Foods, a tortilla manufacturing company.
The third event is a luncheon on February 10, 2011 hosted by Ken Powell, chairman and CEO of General Mills. At this event, students can interact with Powell as well as MEDA clients, who are entrepreneurs of color.
Student participation can include field trips to the business, focus group research and other ideas to help youth understand the importance of their education in preparation for future careers. Funded in part by an inner-city education grant from the GHR Foundation, the RCS Imagine the Possibilities program will result in a myriad of benefits to both students and their mentors.
“The approach is both innovative and creative,” said Fran Rusciano Murnane, RCS director of advancement and program manager. “Because the students are the focus of the campaign, they will bring back to the classroom insights and knowledge that will also influence, inform and enlighten other students.
“Imagine the Possibilities will allow us to expand our academic capital and give our students a broader educational experience,” he added.
Cheung Ho is a native of Hong Kong but her connections to America go back more than a century. Her maternal grandfather was sponsored by missionaries to San Francisco around 1906.
He worked in a printing company and taught himself English at night, believing that an education was the road to success in America. He was accepted to Harvard University and graduated with a Political Science degree in 1914 and returned to China.
Cheung-Ho’s mother was born in 1914 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her parents returned to China soon after. She received her medical degree in China and completed her residency at the University of Chicago and returned to Hong Kong.
Cheung Ho came to Minnesota in 2002 where she graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in business administration in 1976. She worked as a systems engineer and bank project manager while starting home businesses until founding MEDA in 1993 and became its president and CEO in 1999.
MEDA (www.MEDA.net) is as an advocate for minority business owners and entrepreneurs. Its programs provide training, financing, consulting and other assistance to minority-owned and minority-managed companies. MEDA is credited with strengthening minority business and economic opportunity and creating more jobs for the growing minority communities.
For nearly two decades MEDA has worked to narrow the gap between majority and minority entrepreneurs with its business development programs. The organization’s services help invigorate minority communities, local and national economies and help create great business leaders in Minnesota.
Cheung Ho was named among the “Most Influential Woman in Business” in 2002 by The Business Journal. She was also named the U.S. Small Business Association Minority Small Business Advocate that same year. She presented with the Carlson School of Management Outstanding Achievement Award in 2004. It is the highest honor given to alumni and recognizes exceptional achievement in a professional field or service.