Endicott, New York
A school for young entrepreneurs who are fueling their future and community.
Tiger Ventures is located in Endicott, New York—the birthplace of IBM. After years of industrial and economic decline in the upstate New York region, voters approved a $14 million capital improvement to establish an alternative high school with a business incubator. Tiger Ventures opened in 2016 and won an XQ Super School grant the following year.
As an alternative high school, educators designed Tiger Ventures to reach disengaged students, students identified for special education programs and services, and students who demonstrate an interest in entrepreneurship. The school has about 70 students in grades 8–12 and provides them with intensive support. Nearly all Tiger students come from low-income families and qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. When they enroll at Tiger, students get to experience strong social bonds with adults and their fellow students, growing in confidence to take risks and explore their interests through Tiger’s entrepreneurship and business management opportunities.
“We built [a school] café from the ground up. We had to develop a business plan first and do all of the other things any business owner has to do. We went to roasting companies, figured out how to handle pricing, and how to deal with supply and demand.”
Class of 2022
Design Principles in Action
Learn how Tiger Ventures applies these XQ Design Principles to sustain student success:
Caring, trusting relationships
Educators at Tiger Ventures aim to provide an exceptionally safe, warm, caring community characterized by trusting relationships between students and adults. Students say they feel welcomed, well-known, and highly supported by all adults in the building. “The teachers and staff at Tiger Ventures are the main things that stand out to me,” said Luke, who graduated in 2022. “I’ve been to about 15 different schools during my life and I’ve never had a connection with teachers like this. When I get to school, I know that the teachers really care about me, because they take the time to make sure I’m doing okay at home and that I have everything I need. They really care about making sure all students succeed.”
Youth voice and choice
Students have a major voice in setting their schedules, which can vary from week to week and day to day. Each quarter, every student works with an advisor to develop a personalized set of learning goals and an action plan. The plan includes formal courses (required and optional), projects, and independent study, as well as the means to evaluate each. The student council led the development of a schoolwide effort called ROAR (Responsibility, Organize, Attitude, and Respect) to develop community, build culture, discourage bullying, and help students understand how to support and accept differences. In addition, the staff at Tiger Ventures is trained in restorative practices, which they use in advisory courses and on an as-needed process.
Under the advisement of a local business, Java Joe’s Roasting Company, five 12th graders completed internships based in a cafe that Tiger students launched in the basement of their school building. As part of this experience, students conducted market research surveys. They are also planning to develop an online ordering system and backend software in the 2023-24 school year to track sales and inventory. This internship provided students the chance to become full-fledged entrepreneurs in their own right. In the 2020-21 school year, 9th graders took part in an event where they learned the process entrepreneurs use to create and build a product by working in teams to form a start-up, create a product, and pitch their ideas to investors to launch their company. All products were sold online through a private e-commerce site.
Tiger Ventures is in its own building six miles away from Union-Endicott High School, but the state of New York doesn’t consider Tiger a separate school entity. As a result, the state does not publish data on Tiger, such as graduation rates or results on state standardized tests, but rather includes Tiger students in the statistics for Union-Endicott High School.
However, the XQ Senior Survey of the Class of 2022 revealed seven in ten surveyed 12th graders had completed internships, a remarkable accomplishment considering pandemic restrictions.
Nine in ten surveyed 12th graders said they felt at least somewhat prepared for the future, according to the XQ Senior Survey. Of those students, 90 percent cited creativity and problem-solving as key strengths they had developed in high school that will serve them well in adulthood. And 70 percent of surveyed 12th graders said they appreciated being able to work at their own pace to master what they need to learn. The school uses a pass or fail, standards-based grading system that ensures students have the time they need to learn and master new material.