Getting SCH students to think and act like entrepreneurs

by Len Lear
Posted 6/13/24

Ed Glassman, a Mt. Airy resident for the last 10 years, grew up in East Falls and graduated from Chestnut Hill Academy in 2003.

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Getting SCH students to think and act like entrepreneurs


Ed Glassman, a Mt. Airy resident for the last 10 years, grew up in East Falls and graduated from Chestnut Hill Academy in 2003. After earning an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, near Chicago, in business and psychology, it looked as if he was on his way to a successful corporate career working with Fortune 500 companies. 

Glassman was an innovation and design consultant in Chicago, developing new products and services for several of the nation's biggest corporations. During his time in consulting, he also served as executive director of The Chicago Innovation Awards, where he developed educational experiences, networking events and funding opportunities for Chicago-area entrepreneurs.

Rather than trying to become a Shark Tank-type of mega-entrepreneur, though, Glassman made a U-turn in 2014, returning to his alma mater, now known as Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH), sharing with students what he had learned in the high-stakes, high-pressure corporate world. (During his third and fourth year at SCH, Glassman earned a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in education entrepreneurship.)

“We had just sold our company in Chicago to an investment bank … I reached out to the head of school at SCH, Dr. Priscilla Sands,” said Glassman. “I wanted to network and get to know the educational environment in Philadelphia. She brought me in to a meeting and introduced me to a team of folks at SCH who were developing The Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, an enrichment program that would teach students to think and act like entrepreneurs. 

“It would teach them to be more resilient, resourceful and creative problem solvers through hands-on, passion-based, project-based experiences. I was blown away by the vision, and I immediately began consulting on curriculum, project opportunities and staffing models. After six months of consulting, Dr. Sands asked me to come aboard full time as the director. That was 10 years ago, and I haven’t looked back!”

As executive director of SCH's Sands Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL), Glassman created a program that encompasses design, technology and business with a wide range of classes that challenge students from ages 5 to 18 to come up with solutions to problems they might face in the business world. 

Since its inception in 2012, the program has graduated over 1,000 students who have built more than 350 ventures and generated $300,000 for social impact initiatives. Glassman's accomplishments were recognized by the Philadelphia Business Journal, which recently named him one of Philly's top “40 Under 40.” (He will be 40 years old in August.)

In the CEL program, students are literally launching their ideas for businesses, non-profit organizations, inventions and environmental initiatives. “I love that the school has given us the freedom and flexibility to develop a program that puts aside grades and traditional notions of evaluation in favor of giving the kids a chance to take risks and try things without fear of failure,” said Glassman.

“It’s really wonderful to spend each day in an environment where you can feel deeply and authentically good about everything you do … It makes for a really uplifting work experience.”

Of all the students' efforts, Glassman's favorite, which was chronicled in December of 2020 by the Local, started with student Alysa Akins (‘19), one of the students who went on a trip with Glassman to Cambodia. The students and their mentor spent a few days living in a weaving village in Kampot, which is rooted in sustainable agriculture, fair trade manufacturing and children’s education initiatives. 

“Alysa was clearly moved by the visit,” said Glassman, “as were so many of our students. But she really put her entrepreneurial mindset to work, forming the first U.S. partnership with the village. Over the course of her senior year, Alysa formed a team of SCH students, sourced scarves and wraps and sold hundreds of products, donating 100% of the proceeds back to the women in the village. (Many were sold at Serendipity in Chestnut Hill.)

“It was such a success that the work has been carried on by Alysa's friends, Mia Costonis (‘20), and Meena Padhye (‘21). This is such a great example of how to become a role model for other aspiring young leaders who want to 'be the change.'”

When asked what was the best decision he has ever made, Glassman replied, “To move to Philadelphia and join the SCH Academy team.”

When asked what person has made the greatest impact on his life, he said, “Personally, it’s most certainly my wife, Lindsay Glassman, who inspires me every day. She’s my rock and my biggest supporter.”

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