You could say that Jaylen Bledsoe, an eighth grade student at , began life a bit accelerated.
A member of GALACTIC, the 's (HSD) gifted education program, more likely than not he is the only 13-year-old at school who is also the chief executive officer of a start-up information technology company he named Bledsoe Technologies.
“I don’t see many eighth graders do the things that he does but it’s all his doing,” said Curtis Bledsoe, Jaylen's father. “I’m very proud of him.”
Jaylen decided to launch his IT company that is also a web design firm, about a year ago. Besides web design and IT, Jaylen said his company can do web development, photography, videography, computer repair, search engine optimization, voice recordings and consulting. All of which he found a love for in his GALACTIC courses.
"Three years ago, when I was in GALACTIC, I took a video editing course and it really interested me,” he said. “But I wanted to learn how to do more.”
And so he did just that.
The Makings of Bledsoe Technologies
“Even as early as third grade, it was clear that Jaylen was uniquely focused on where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do,” said Mara Berry, director of GALACTIC, in an HSD statement. “I think the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focus in our elementary gifted curriculum really paid off with him.”
Jaylen said a few years ago, while on vacation in Florida, he purchased $200 worth of textbooks on hypertext mark-up language (HTML) and hypertext preprocessor (PHP) code to help him expand his web hosting and building knowledge, which lead to one of his earliest clients.
“I was in charge of marketing and website design for my cousin, Linzie Gray, who is a pop and rhythm-and-blues singer,” he said.
Taking Bledsoe Technologies Even Further
Jaylen hopes that as he advances through high school, he'll be able to train and eventually bring on students with like minds into his company to serve as a team.
Currently Jalyen works from his parents’ home and has four employees - two local and two in India. He also has an attorney.
“I realize every kid doesn’t have an opportunity to start his or her own business at age 13,” Jaylen said. “I did it on a very small budget."
Jaylen also said the key is taking and idea and turning it into action.
"It’s an adult world out there," he said. "We can all do the same things; you have to have the right amount of dedication.”
After High School
Jaylen has a 4.0 GPA and said upon graduation, he sees Harvard University in his future. He aspires to major in business administration and computer science. Then he intends to continue at Harvard to obtain his master’s degree in law, with the hope of becoming a copyright attorney.
You'd think running your own company and attending middle school full time absorbs your energy, but not Jaylen. He is involved in a long list of extracurricular and civic activities including serving as the vice president of the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association for the last two years, serving as Student Council president for three years, National Junior Honor Society, director of technology for the school’s audio-visual programs, Leaders for Social Justice, the Wyman Teen Leadership Program, president of the St. Louis chapter of the National Youth Rights Association and teaching a computer class at the school on Thursdays.
More Startups and Initiatives
As of March 7, Jaylen has another notch to add to his belt. He is the chief technology officer of St. Louis Volunteen, which launched nationally on last week.
Jaylen said his Godparents are entrepreneurs and have major influencers on his business plans. He said he witnessed their hard work and dedication throughout the years. In fact, Jaylen's dedication to his craft led to his Godparents serving as initial investors in Bledsoe Technologies.
“When Jaylen takes on a project, he works from a systemic point of view," said Becky Cook, his science teacher. "He contacts and meets with professionals throughout our community to develop a plan of action and then coordinates the implementation.
"He has grown during his time here at Hazelwood West Middle from developing himself as an individual to becoming an agent of positive change for society.”
An example of this systemic approach Cook describes would be Jaylen's challenge for the district. He is a vegetarian and reached out to the HSD superintendent Steve Price to ask for changes to the middle school lunch menu. From there he was connected with Trisha Plunkett, HSD's director of child nutrition.
“We now offer a garden burger at lunch and a vegetarian wrap daily," Plunkett said of changes to the lunch menu since she began working with Jaylen. "We offer other meatless items, such as whole grain grilled cheese, whole grain cheese pizza and whole grain pretzels and cheese.”
Jaylen submitted his vegetarian menu plan to VH1’s “Do Something Awards,” which honor those under 25 as pivotal do-ers in their field, cause or issue. Five finalists will receive $10,000 community grants while the grand prizewinner will receive a $100,000 community grant. He'll find out come late April if he's advanced on the competition.