Meet Ralph: Fresh Air Alum and Teen Entrepreneur
“I found out that learning how to float and learning how to start a business are about the same thing – being brave enough to take a first action and see it through,” said Ralph, 15, describing his Fresh Air experiences at The Fund’s recent 145-year celebration.
Ralph was first introduced to The Fresh Air Fund in 2018 at 12-years-old, when he attended Camp Hayden Marks and experienced firsts like being away from home, making s’mores and learning how to float and swim! The following year, Ralph continued his camping journey at Camp Tommy and found support in new friendships and mentorship from his counselors.
“Fresh Air camp was my first time away from home. I was really shy and afraid of the water. A lifeguard said, “Don’t give up!” He patiently showed me how to float and suddenly I was floating! I will never forget that feeling. I felt supported and encouraged to face my fears, embrace the moment and try new things,” Ralph said.
Last spring as Ralph was finishing his school year, he wondered after being home for so many months with virtual school what summer would look like for him. That was when he remembered his previous Fresh Air summer experiences and found that The Fresh Air Fund was offering new programs for teens.
“I chose the Entrepreneurship Program in partnership with Youthful Savings because I’m very interested in finance. When I heard about it, I was really interested in joining. I found out about it because I have previously been a part of The Fresh Air Fund’s summer camps and when I was looking on the Fresh Air website for this summer’s program, and I found this teen program, I was very excited,” Ralph shared.
The Fund’s Summer Teen Academy offers specialized programs for teens, ages 13-17, to earn credentials, have internships and gain critical work experience. Teens explore professional development opportunities and learn new skills, while having exposure to mentors and to safe and supportive spaces to explore their interests and form a community.
Ralph was excited to find out that the Youthful Savings curriculum offers financial literacy courses and mentorship opportunities to help teens start and establish their own businesses.
“I have two businesses. One is a clothing business called Roaring Flames where I sell apparel with my original designs on t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies. My other business is a tutoring business called E-Tutoring Service. I partnered with another student to start the business and we now advertise and promote our business on Instagram,” Ralph said. He is saving his profits to help pay for college.
As a proud alum, Ralph was a keynote speaker at The Fresh Air Fund’s 145 Year Anniversary celebration. His speech was about his Fresh Air experiences and what he has learned from them.
“I felt supported and encouraged to face my fears, embrace the moment and try new things. The Fresh Air Teen Academy Entrepreneurship Program in partnership with Youthful Savings, challenged us to start our own business. We reviewed marketing, building a network, tracking customer data and executing plans – a whole new world of finance opened up for me,” said Ralph, as part of his remarks.
Reflecting on the impact The Fresh Air Fund has had on his life, Ralph said, “That’s what The Fresh Air Fund is all about – it is a safety net and no matter what happens, Fresh Air is always there.”
Visit the Roaring flames online store at the Youthful Saving’s marketplace and see Ralph’s original designs!