To Jonathan Lacoste the colleges he visited during his senior year at St. Edward High School seemed downright antiquated. The college kids were still using bulletin boards to communicate about campus events.
Applying what he learned after school in the Ken Layden Entrepreneurship Program — an extracurricular 20-week business course taught by a rotating guest instructor — he figured he could show those old-timers a thing or two about social networking. He went on to win the program's end-of-the-year business competition, which pits teams of two against each other to come up with a feasible and profitable business idea.
"You can have a great idea," says Frank O'Linn, St. Ed's dean of academics, "but it also takes planning, market research and getting to know the customer."
Lacoste and his partner Patrick Dowling put in hundreds of hours writing code and targeting consumers. By spring, they had created an online app for college students to "connect with events across campus and the region," Lacoste explains.
The duo split a $12,500 scholarship endowed by the estate of Ken Layden, a 1980 St. Edward alumnus, for their win in the program's 2011 installment. Overall, $25,000 is awarded each year.
"It's not so much the financial reward," says Lacoste, now starting his sophomore year at Boston College and already the COO of startup online advertising platform Jebbit. "It's being passionate about something you really care about and hoping to better someone else's life by making an impact. St. Ed's and the Layden program really helped grow that in me."
This year, the program is during school hours and for credit. Since its start in 2008, it has grown to more than 100 participants — up from around 30 last year.
Thanks to the endowment that funds the scholarships, O'Linn says, the program "will be there for as long as St. Ed's is standing."