Brent Droege, a junior in the College of Management’s bachelor of accounting program, is working to help troubled youth in his community begin to realize their potential by giving them real-life work experience.
Droege recently launched a seasonal lawn care business – The Agape Lawn Company – in collaboration with the Agape Corner Boarding School in Durham. The new business will help young people between 14 and 22 develop landscaping skills, earn money and get a taste of entrepreneurship.
Droege, who worked for a landscaping company in high school, said starting the business now “was a logical progression for me.”
It was also logical for him to connect with Agape Corner, where he works as a teacher and house mentor. The free boarding school, which serves at-risk youth, has been in operation for almost three decades.
“I really wanted to name the business after the school,” Droege explained. “Agape Corner is a place where children can come and be loved unconditionally, which, unfortunately, is not what most of these children receive elsewhere.”
Agape is a Greek word that means unconditional love, Droege said.
While the landscaping business was primarily his idea, Droege said the boarding school had long been interested in offering a vocational training program.
“I think it is important to help other young people because I was helped,” Droege said. “Without help, most of us would not be where we are today.”
The young people working for the business will receive minimum wage. Although the company could pay more, Droege believes it will benefit the kids in the long run to work hard for relatively low pay.
“That will make it very real to them that it is necessary to pursue education and become a leader in the workplace, so that they can support the kind of lifestyle they desire,” he said.
Each worker he employs will have a specific duty, Droege said, including cutting grass, driving the company truck, writing up estimates, securing new business, scheduling jobs and identifying hazards on job sites. These skills are all invaluable in the workplace and in life, he added.
“The purpose of Agape Lawn Company is not to generate income for its owners,” he said. “Rather, it is to help youth who are seeking to help themselves through scholarships, savings, matching programs and business skills.”
Droege says that, among other things, he hopes his employees will learn how to handle money responsibly, maintain a good grade point average and recognize the value of education after high school. Other lessons he hopes they learn include understanding the cost of living, building a network of individuals that they can look to for future opportunities, and learning that community involvement is an obligation.