Grooming Young Entrepreneurs

David Eckles, MBA 73, gives $1 million to boost Haas programs for under-resourced youth

Haas alumnus and longtime Berkeley booster David Eckles, MBA 73, has given $1 million to the Haas School to expand its successful mentoring program for under-resourced youth.

Eckles' gift creates an endowment and provides funding for startup operations for the new Office of Pre-College Programs in the school's Undergraduate Program. The mission of the office is to create a stronger, clearer path to college, and Haas in particular, for under-resourced youth, building on the success of the school's 23-year-old Young Entrepreneurs at Haas (YEAH) mentoring programs for middle school and high school students. YEAH will be one of several programs operated under the new office.

Eckles' gift also is creating a $100,000 Diversity and Social Impact Fund for smaller projects proposed by different Haas School units and student groups to enhance the diversity of the Haas community.

Eckles is president of the Blueprint for Communities Foundation, a private foundation providing micro-grants to individuals and small nonprofit organizations in need. He is also a retired founder and CEO of Helm Financial, one of the largest privately held rail equipment lessors in North America. In addition to giving to YEAH, he has been a generous supporter of Cal Athletics and Cal Performances.

"YEAH has been a very, very successful program. It has impacted the lives of a tremendous number of inner-city youth, some of whom have never ridden BART, don't know how to use an ATM, or don't know where their next meal will be from. They need a helping hand, and this program provides that," says Eckles, who was recruited by former Dean Ray Miles to serve on YEAH's first board in 1997.

"The new Office of Pre-College Programs will better integrate YEAH into the undergraduate curricula and give it greater visibility to enlist corporate sponsorships in regards to after-school programs and summer jobs," Eckles adds.

Students who participate in YEAH programs typically are the first in their families to attend college, live in low-income households, attend public schools, and earn average grades. The program boasts an impressive record, with 100 percent of students who complete the program graduating from high school and going to college.

To develop new programming, the Office of Pre-College Programs and Undergraduate Program staff are teaming up with Haas Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman to employ techniques from her MBA-level Problem Finding Problem Solving course.

MBA students will lend their expertise this semester when their Design and Innovation Strategy Club will hold a one-day open innovation workshop to attack this question for YEAH: How can we equip under-resourced young people with skills, information and opportunities to succeed in a world of college and beyond? The goal is to launch a few pilot projects in fall 2013.

"Undergraduate and MBA students already serve as YEAH mentors, but we believe there are many other ways we can tap their knowledge and enthusiasm," say YEAH Executive Director Jennifer Bevington. "David Eckles' generous gift enables us to work more closely across Haas to expand our work with under-resourced youth."

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