Institute for Entrepreneurship

Italy Starts Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program

Italy Starts logo

An Entrepreneurship 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 have produced the content of the program and will assist in the first class so as to set up the framework of expectations as well as review helpful resources. 

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.


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. 


The program is structured as weekly online meetings over a 5-week period. During this period, mentees, assisted by mentors, develop a business model and a presentation for their idea (business or social venture). Mentees will have additional preparatory meetings (obligatory) before the program kick-off meeting.

  • 19 April, 5-6pm, (online) Italy Starts Q&A meeting for teachers who plan to register their students for the program. Teachers, please Register for the meeting.
  • 29 April - deadline to register for Italy Starts (Mentors and Mentees)
  • 30 April - confirmation of registration. Mentee participation will be confirmed based on participation in the two Obligatory Meetings.
  • 7 May, 5-6pm, (online) Obligatory Meeting I - Mentees, Informational Session
  • 14 May, 5-6pm, (online) Obligatory Meeting II - Mentees, Meet Your Team and nominate your Team Leaders
  • 21 May, 5-6pm, (CET) (online) Meet and Greet, Mentors and Mentees
  • 28 May, 5-6pm, (CET) (online) Italy Starts Kick-off Meeting - program begins.
  • 27 June, 5-7pm (CET) (online) - Final Presentations. Registration required.


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 

Italy Starts is designed to be a self-administered program. Resources such as articles, videos, and other useful materials will be provided. Teachers are asked to select students to participate based on their interest in the program, their availability during the month of June, and their English language skills. They will be collaborating online with non-Italian speakers. Teachers are not directly involved with the delivery of Italy Starts, yet your students will certainly have ideas to share about their experience.

When you register for Italy Starts, you agree to actively participate in all the meetings and activities with the team to which you will be assigned. Your team of high school students (4-6 people) will be working with university Mentors who will guide you in your discovery of how to realize an idea for a business or social venture. You will need a Gmail account to access the program.

The following are illustrative examples of how the program can be adopted by a Partner University, based on real cases:

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.

Italy Starts 2021 saw the transition of the program to online delivery. Increasingly international in reach, Italy Starts has had 183 Mentors from Partner Universities in the U.S., Armenia, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Lebanon mentored nearly 500 high school students from across Italy.

Percorsi per le Competenze Trasversali e per l'Orientamento PCTO (ex-Alternanza Scuola Lavoro)

This project qualifies as 40 hours for PCTO, broken down as follows:
Mentor-Mentee meetings: 10 hours
Preparation, research and home assignments: 30 hours

Mentees, High School students - fill in the Registration Form for High School Students where you will be asked to include a brief statement of why you would like to participate in Italy Starts. JCU reserves the right to select participants.

Mentors, current JCU or partner university students - fill in the Application Form for University Student Mentors where you will be asked to include a brief statement of why you would like to participate in Italy Starts. JCU reserves the right to select participants.

See all of the Programs for Italian High Schools offered by JCU. (Programmi per le Scuole)

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to live this amazing experience. Have a nice summer!

Andrea, Italy Starts 2021 Mentee

I had a great time educating and mentoring my team throughout the entire process. The program was very well structured so it made it very easy for me to follow and share with the mentees. 

Mark, Italy Starts 2023 Mentor

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