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Hillman Entrepreneurs Program Unveils New Center for Students

Hillman Entrepreneurs Program Unveils New Center for Students

The inaugural University of Maryland class of Hillman Entrepreneurs.
The inaugural University of Maryland class of Hillman Entrepreneurs.

Trevor Young dreams of helping his homeland, Sierra Leone, bounce back from its grisly civil war. But without a college degree, he feared the doors he'd need to open to help his country would remain closed.

"I've seen the amputee camps. People's limbs were cut off for no reason. I want to help the economic crisis over there," says Young, who is pursuing an academic program that will earn him both a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's in public policy with a concentration in international development. "The degrees I am pursuing will give me the skills and the credibility I will need to make a difference."

The Hillman Entrepreneurs Program is enabling Young to receive his coveted degree.

This Friday, Oct. 12, Young and 14 other former Prince George's County Community College students, now at the University of Maryland, College Park, celebrate their first academic semester at the state's flagship university with the official opening of a center designed especially for them.

The Hillman Student Entrepreneurs Center serves as both a professional and academic workspace, replete with a seminar room, modern computing facility, lounge area with kitchen amenities and a special "Idea Room" designed by Hillman students as a place where they can brainstorm and hatch ideas in a trusted environment.

The David H. and Suzanne D. Hillman Family Foundation donated $1.7 million to create the Hillman Entrepreneurs Program, which guides students at Prince George's Community College towards a degree from the University of Maryland, College Park campus. Students transfer to the university after completing an associate's degree at the community college.

The Hillman Entrepreneurs Program is a new model for entrepreneurship education. Students are offered leadership and entrepreneurship courses, intense, hands-on mentoring, community-building activities and high-level networking opportunities.

"Each and every one of these students has the drive, the creativity and the intelligence to make a significant difference in the world," says Karen Thornton, director of the Hillman Entrepreneurs Program and associate director for entrepreneurship education for MTECH Ventures.

David Hillman, chief executive officer of Southern Management Corporation, says he is giving students something he never had. "When I was a high school student I fell between the cracks," says Hillman. "I worked very hard, but it would have been easier if I had been offered a better education."

Students' majors range from civil engineering to pre-med and theatre. Though their majors vary, the students are unified in their desire to become entrepreneurs. American studies major Shirley Hayden has already invented a product that received international accolades as the winner of the Brussels Eureka Special Award, given to only one of the 300 inventions at the 2006 Invention and New Product Exposition.

Hayden's invention, the Unique Seat, is a convenient outdoor seating system that can be used for picnics, camping or even sporting events. Two chairs-which easily turn into pillows-and a blanket fold into a backpack for easy transportation. The Unique Seat will be on the market within three to six months.

"A degree was the one piece I was missing. I want the degree not only for credibility but for personal satisfaction as well," says Hayden. "The Hillman Entrepreneurs Program is the perfect fit because it offers support and allows me to surround myself with other like-minded people."

Hillman asks that students put their degrees to use in Prince George's County by becoming entrepreneurial leaders in their communities.

"I purchased my first community in Prince George's County in 1965. I have deep roots there and I wanted to do something that would be good for its future," says Hillman.

University of Maryland President C.D. (Dan) Mote Jr., Prince George's Community College President Charlene Dukes, and David Hillman, along with the inaugural class of Hillman Entrepreneurs starting at the University of Maryland, College Park, as well as guests from the university community, will attend the ceremony to celebrate the first class of Hillman students on Friday, Oct. 12, at 11 a.m.

October 11, 2007

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