Institute for Entrepreneurship

Italy Starts Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program

Italy Starts logo

A Business Mentoring Program in English

“If you light a lamp for someone, it will also brighten your own path.” (Buddhist proverb)

Aimed at third and fourth-year students enrolled in Italian high schools, Italy Starts was created by the JCU Institute for Entrepreneurship as part of the MIUR Alternanza Scuola Lavoro. Participating JCU/partner university students (Mentors) volunteer to be connected to Italian High School Students (Mentees) to solve real business problems or develop business models for their business or social venture idea. Mentees will be required to deliver a short PowerPoint presentation at the end of the program. 

Mentors are expected to guide the meetings and help Mentees structure their projects, including helping with sources of information for the research, feedback on assignments and progress, as well as encouragement throughout.  Mentors should have some knowledge of business planning, marketing, and elevator pitches. JCU professionals will assist in the first class so as to set up the framework of expectations as well as review helpful resources. 


The overall objective of this program is to encourage cross-cultural learning between undergraduate students who have had some training in entrepreneurship or business, and Italian high school students, within the broad spectrum of entrepreneurship-focused mentoring. 

Our vision is of a community where mentoring and befriending can empower young people to reach their full potential, as well as provide a wider benefit for the climate at JCU and participating schools, by helping to reduce conflict and promote self-esteem. Peer mentoring fits well with JCU’s and partner schools’ policy initiatives such as participation, community service, and volunteering. 

For Summer 2018, the program is structured as five 2-hour meetings, one evening per week, during which mentees, assisted by mentors, develop a business model and a presentation for their idea (business or social venture). 

Mentors are expected to guide the meetings and help mentees structure their projects, including helping with sources of information for the research, feedback on the assignments and the progress, as well as encouragement throughout. 

Mentees will interact with Mentors, courteously and professionally at all times, mindful of the Mentor’s commitment and dedication to the program; this includes thorough preparation, completing the home assignments as instructed by the Mentors. Mentees will also keep a diary of each encounter, which will be submitted at the end of the project together with the presentation.


High School Students will learn to:

  • Understand the startup process
  • Perform research using digital sources
  • Build a robust, persuasive argument supported by evidence
  • Interact in English in a semi-professional setting
  • Feel empowered and gain confidence
  • Have the opportunity to form one-on-one relationships with mentors from other countries

Mentors (participating JCU/partner university students) will benefit by:

  • Gaining invaluable cross-cultural experience with young members of the local community by acting as enablers of young talent, providing knowledge, advice and valuable insights 
  • Developing life skills by encouraging and supporting younger students
  • Experiencing personal and professional growth by advancing their leadership, problem-solving, networking and general communications skills
  • Helping to create a collaborative community 

Information for Italian high-schools

Support for teachers
Italy Starts is designed to be a very flexible tool that can help participating teachers apply a variety of themes taught in the classroom in a stimulating, engaging way. Resources such as articles, videos, and other useful materials will be provided. Teachers may wish to work with students throughout the semester, using the program as a platform for further language learning.

Participating teachers will automatically become Friends of the Institute and will be invited to other events related to Entrepreneurship and innovation throughout the year.

Thank you for the invaluable opportunity that you have offered to my students. This is just the kind of activity that they like and need to be engaged in as it is challenging, formative, and extremely useful and up-to-date.

Maria D'Alessandro, teacher at Liceo Giulia Falletti di Barolo

Alternanza Scuola Lavoro (ASL)
This project qualifies as 40 hours towards the total requirement for ASL, broken down as follows:

  • Mentor-Mentee meetings:                                      10 hours
  • Preparation, research and home assignments:  30 hours

See all of the Programs for Italian High Schools offered by JCU.

Information for Partner Universities

The following is an illustrative example of how the program can be adopted by a Partner university, based on a real case for Summer 2018.

Partner University has a summer program that brings 20-25 students to Rome for five weeks, during JCU’s Summer I session. The Partner University students have backgrounds in business and entrepreneurship, and part of the purpose of their study abroad experience is to gain hands-on experience combined with service. Italy Starts fits both objectives and helps build a sense of responsibility towards the younger generations.

The Partner University shares the Italy Starts program with its students and primes them to think about how to guide the Mentees through it. The final output of each working group will be a prototype of the business idea, a brief powerpoint presentation and a very short pitch, delivered on the last day.