The roots of The Beatbox can be traced back to the basement of a business in Fairfield, Iowa in August 1999. 19 year-old Roland Wells had recently moved back to Fairfield after living for three years in Atlanta, Georgia and Phoenix, Arizona. He felt that there was a need in Fairfield for shared space where local youth could participate in creative activities and enjoy a supportive and respectful environment enriched with ideas of peer mentoring and expressive freedom. He rented out a basement and started activities including break dancing and deejaying classes and Saturday night dances. Meanwhile, Julie Babb and Barbara Rail, two mothers of teenagers and youth advocates, had obtained IRS recognition for a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization entitled Fairfield Youth Advocacy. In January 2000, Babb's 18 year-old son introduced them to Wells, and they found that they shared a vision of providing a safe and healthy environment for Fairfield's youth. A partnership was formed between the two middle aged mothers and the teenager and in May 2000, Fairfield Youth Advocacy dba The Beatbox opened in a 2000 square foot facility. An overwhelming demand for space to continue and expand youth programming necessitated the purchase of a new building and in November 2001, FYA moved into an 8500 square foot facility right off of Fairfield's main square. Babb and Wells have continued to serve as co-directors since then, with Rail serving as an advisor in the mission to create a safe, clean environment for youth to engage in creative activities and enhance their education through technology.
The Beatbox is proud of the following achievements:
· Founded in 2000 by Julie Babb, Roland Wells, and Barbara Rail and opened with a $50,000 anonymous donation
· Received a $300,000 Department of Education Community Technology Center grant in October 2001 to purchase computer equipment, facilitating new technology programs, including a Cisco certification course that trained the youngest person in Iowa's history to take and pass the required certification test at fourteen years old
· Initiated a youth entrepreneur and financial literacy program through a $20,000 grant from the William Zimmerman Foundation in June 2002 and continued the program in Fall 2002 with a $25,000 grant from the Foundation for Financial Literacy
· Awarded two VISTA volunteers through the Corporation for National Service to begin work in July/August 2002 and help with the rapidly growing service needs
Current Programs and Activities
Youth Entrepreneur Workshop.(Making Money: Skills for Life) This program began in July, 2002 and is part of The Beatbox Business Development Center(BBDC). It includes coaching and business mentoring by local business leaders, along with basic entrepreneurship skills. Twenty-four youth ages 14-23 have participated in the course which guides them through developing and planning a business proposal, integrating life and financial skills and allowing them to interact with peers and mentors with a shared business and entrepreneurial spirit.
BTech. The Beatbox's community technology center opened in December 2001 and offers various courses to bridge the digital divide to which economically and socially isolated rural areas are susceptible. Graduates of our technology programs benefit from enhanced digital skills and competitive technical capabilities as they enter or prepare for the work force.
Web design. Thirty-two students ranging in age from nine to fifty-five years old have developed web design skills, including the production of a website, under instruction by trained educators knowledgeable in the most current techniques and technology.
Video Production. Technology and art merge in our digital video production course, which has allowed each of the eighteen students aged fourteen to forty-two to complete four short digital films and a final premier. The class emphasizes basic understanding and also the possibilities for visual outlets for creativity. Students and public have access to digital cameras and a video editing room.
Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. Important technology industry certification materials have been instructed to eight students aged thirteen to fifty-three. Students learn how to install, configure, and administrate Microsoft Windows 200 Professional and Microsoft Windows 2000 Server.
Cisco Certification. Eight students aged fourteen to fifty-three have benefited from one of the most advanced computer network training programs in the world. Upon completion, certified students are eligible for high paying industry positions.
New Media. This program is a combination of web design and video production and is being offered for the first time in the fall of 2002 to a group of nine home schooled youth who otherwise would have little opportunity for digital education in a classroom environment.
Recreation. In addition to the afore mentioned programs, The Beatbox provides a public access technology lab with eight computers connected to high speed Internet that are used a total of 112 hours per day for activities including homework, e-mail, research, and digital competitions. The Beatbox has recently become the 15th member of the Amateur Boxing Club in Iowa in partnership with the Ottumwa Boxing Club. The program will benefit both males and females who are interested in a sport not offered in the traditional recreation systems. The Beatbox also provides an indoor skate park, a recreation room with a pool table and video games, and a music room with a 10,000 watt DJ system that is used for Saturday night dances that provide a safe, drug-free, and violence-free atmosphere for youth to socialize.
The Beatbox's target demographic consists of rural, disadvantaged youth ages 10-25, often characterized by high drop out rates, juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse. According to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Census, 65,852 out of the 513,068 people in the six county area surrounding Fairfield are below poverty level. Forty-eight percent of families headed by a single female with related children under 18 are living in poverty. Poverty has been identified as a significant factor in youth drop out rates. Iowa's Counties 2000 reports that in 1999, 936 teens in this geographic area dropped out of secondary school. 876 teen births were recorded in 1999, with 697 out of wedlock, and this often results in young mothers leaving school without adequate education or job skills in order to support themselves or their offspring.
High school drop outs only compose one aspect of our digitally deprived population. Southeast Iowa home school coordinators report 4,098 home schooled children who have no access to public school technology programs or computer labs outside the home. The Beatbox strives to create an atmosphere of care and support for these youth that fall between the cracks of traditional educational and social support systems.
The Beatbox works closely with the Home School Division of the Fairfield Community School District and The Department of Human Services (DECAT program). The creation of the BBDC has led to projects in conjunction with The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) at The University of Iowa and the Institute for Social and Economic Development (ISED). A project to develop a business incubator will also join the forces of The Beatbox with the Fairfield Entrepreneur Association and the Fairfield Economic Development Association. The Kiwanis Club of Fairfield has depended in part on the volunteer efforts of Beatbox youth for their annual pancake breakfast fundraiser, and they have donated $2500 to the organization. Ecovillage has participated in fundraising projects benefiting The Beatbox and the newly established boxing program relies on a partnership with the Ottumwa Boxing Club.
Over the past three years, Everybody's Whole Foods has donated $15,000 to The Beatbox's operating expenses and Thaddeus Computing has pledged monthly contributions totaling $3,000 in the last two years. A grant of $20,000 from the William Zimmerman Foundation in June 2002 provided the seed money for the youth entrepreneur workshop. In addition to these direct monies, Lisco provides The Beatbox with $250 of services a month in high speed Internet access and phone lines.
Statement of Need
The Beatbox Business Development Center was founded in the summer of 2002 and eight students participated in the pilot entrepreneurial training course. In September 2002, a new course started and the number of students doubled due to increased interest for the skills and learning experience the course offered. While the continuation of the entrepreneurial training class ensures that area youth will be exposed to business basics and introduced to entrepreneurial ideas of mentoring, financing, management, and strategic planning, there remains a need for advanced assistance and entrepreneurial support for youth interested in turning their proposed business plans into small business realities.
Research shows that while there is only a 20% success rate for new micro-enterprises started outside of a business incubator, 87% of incubator graduates remain in business (according to Impact of Incubator Investments Study, 1997). A business incubator targeting young entrepreneurs will provide the necessary support, services, and continued training that is needed for business success. It is critical that entrepreneurial development is supported not only through the initial business education phase, but also through the business start-up phase, and on until successful achievement of self-sustainability. The Beatbox Business Incubator will offer various vital tools in ensuring the success of youth entrepreneurs' business goals.
For more information on The Beatbox, go to http://www.thebeatbox.org