Instead of playing videogames or watching shows after school, more than 100 high school students in Cambridge are running their own businesses.
They are writing reviews on YouTube, selling used items on eBay, creating beaded bracelets and even drawing portraits.
Their secret weapon is The Possible Project, an afterschool entrepreneurship program in Central Square that provides at-risk youth attending the three public high schools in Cambridge with personal and professional skills.
The nonprofit, which currently serves about 155 students, is building what they call a makerspace in Kendall Square that will house high-tech professional equipment, such as computerized textile manipulators, vinyl cutters and 3-D printers, to foster students’ skills and help them advance their business endeavors.
The space is expected to be complete in December and students will begin using it in January, according to Megan Dolan, The Possible Project’s development and communications manager.
But the nonprofit has yet to acquire a laser cutter, which would allow students to cut, engrave and mark just about anything.
The Possible Project has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $40,000 to purchase the equipment.
As of Monday afternoon, they had surpassed their goal with $42,333 pledged. So they stretched it to $48,000, and they must raise that by Nov. 1 in order to collect the funds.
“The makerspace is going to have digital fabrication equipment and also is going to have a real tie to S.T.E.A.M. -Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math,” Dolan said. “Particularly here in Cambridge, that is what almost all of the industry is related to.”
Over the course of three years, students complete six educational levels that provide them with resources, business and entrepreneurial skills, work experience, and guidance to plan their post-high school pathways.
They are required to give a presentation about their business model to local community members and business leaders at the end of each level, and they receive educational stipends, ranging from $10 to $30 per day, depending on their level.
According to The Possible Project spring survey, 75 percent of the nonprofit’s students are on free and reduced lunch, and 30 percent use their stipends to help their parents make ends meet, such as paying for electrical bills.
“The majority of our students have not had the opportunities that their middle-class peers have had in terms of gaining access to the types of skills and tools that will make them successful in post-secondary education and their careers.”
The Possible’s goal is to not serve as an employment-training program but rather to help kids learn how to sustain themselves.
“We don’t want to be seen as just a place where kids come and work,” Jacey Buel, entrepreneurship education director, said. “We want them to have an entrepreneurial experience, so when you have already been doing this for two and a half years, we want you to fly on your own.”
For students, the program is a vehicle to expand their horizons and step out of their comfort zone.
“I did not know any of the things I had to go through,” said 19-year-old Cambridge resident Neika Neptune, who sells handmade bracelets. “I had to present my business to people at a speech panel and I’m a really shy person. I don’t like to talk in front of people. That helped me with my speaking skills.”
Asarel Price, 20, a junior at Prospect Hill Academy Charter School, said the nonprofit taught him how to be “patient” and “mature.”
“It helped me understand what it is to run a business, because you have to sit down, plan each step,” said Price, who co-runs Insite Apparel, a T-shirt business. “You have to make a business plan.”
To learn more about The Possible Project, call 617-492-9200, or visit possibleproject.org.