FLINT, MI — There may soon be an increase in the number of young entrepreneurs who call Flint home, thanks to a partnership between Operation HOPE, Huntington Bank and the YouthQuest Afterschool Initiative.

Starting today, the organizations will begin piloting Banking On Our Future – the precursor to HOPE Business in a Box Academies youth entrepreneurship program – at YouthQuest, an afterschool program administered by the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce. Banking On Our Future (BOOF) is a financial dignity program that covers budgeting, checking and savings, and investments, with the goal of empowering students to take control of their financial futures.

This fall, the initiative will grow to include HOPE Business in a Box Academies (HBIABA) at YouthQuest’s high school sites. After learning how to develop a business idea and financial plan, students interested in further pursuing their ideas can participate in a program-wide pitch competition. Winners of the competition will be paired with local business mentors to help them further develop their plan and budget.

According to John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman and CEO at Operation HOPE, the youth financial literacy and entrepreneurship initiative aims to spur job creation, spike GDP growth and ensure the future prosperity of our students and our nation.

“HOPE youth programs connect the power of aspiration with the power of education,” Bryant said. “We are pleased to partner with Huntington and the Flint & Genesee Chamber to bring hope and opportunity to the young people in this community.”

Surveys show that Operation HOPE’s hands-on approach has been effective in engaging participants. According to the 2015 Gallup HOPE Index, 79 percent of HOPE students said they planned to start their own business, versus 42 percent at the national level. Additionally, more HOPE students have business internships (14 percent) and are currently running their own businesses (9 percent), when compared to their national counterparts at 5 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively.

On a local level, volunteers from Huntington will lead the BOOF and HBIABA curricula, judge pitch competitions and serve as business role models for students who win the initial pitch competition. Huntington is also providing full financial support for HOPE’s programming through YouthQuest.

According to Greg Viener, Flint Community President for Huntington, youth financial entrepreneurship is an important component of Flint’s brighter economic future.

“Operation Hope is an ideal partner to increase youth business, entrepreneurship and money management expertise among Flint’s youth,” Viener said. “Helping facilitate this relationship for the community is an important part of Huntington meeting our commitment to Flint economic development and revitalization.”

According to Rhetta Hunyady, Vice President of Education & Training at the Flint & Genesee Chamber, HOPE Business in a Box is the perfect complement to YouthQuest’s current offering, which includes academics, arts and culture, health and fitness, youth development and community engagement.

“YouthQuest is designed to positively impact the lives of students – at school, at home and beyond,” Hunyady said. “We’re excited to show them that it’s never too early to start thinking about business, entrepreneurship and money management. In fact, the earlier, the better!”