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Enterprising high school students get a crash course in business during Edinboro’s Summer Business Academy

06/25/2013

Twenty-four students in grades 9-11 enjoyed an immersive look into the business world as part of the Xavier and Tina Williams Summer Business Academy at Edinboro University.

Held June 16-20 and sponsored by the Edinboro University School of Business through the generosity of Xavier and Tina Williams, the Academy brought boys and girls from 19 high schools in Pennsylvania (including numerous area districts), Ohio, New York and Washington, D.C., to the Edinboro University campus for five days of workshops, field trips and social events.

For Mark Anthony Ausbrooks II, a freshman at Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C., the most valuable thing learned during the Academy was time management. “I didn’t think we’d be able to complete this in just a few days,” he said, adding that he most enjoyed “working as a team and coming up with ideas for the project.”

Mark was referring to the Academy’s culminating activity: the presentation of a business plan the students worked on throughout the camp. The young scholars were put in groups and asked to create a hypothetical business and devise a plan for how to effectively build and market a product. They assumed roles within the company, such as president, vice president of marketing and director of finance, and presented their business plans to their fellow Academy participants and a panel of judges. The judges included Dr. Scott Miller, Acting Dean of the School of Business; John Onorato, Director of the Northwest Regional Office of the state Department of Community & Economic Development; and Edinboro faculty members Joseph Nwankpa and Melisa Zimmerman.

“The highlight was probably seeing them give their business plan presentations and seeing it all come together,” Dr. Miller said. “Seeing these young minds that came in, many of them not knowing anything about business, and having them create a business concept, a business idea, and put it together into a workable business plan in such a short period of time. It was really great.”

Throughout the Academy, the students attended seminars focused on team building, business strategy and management, financial regulation, marketing, and financial planning for college, among several other topics. They also met with School of Business faculty and regional business leaders, and toured the Lord Corp., a diversified technology company located in Cambridge Springs, Pa.

McDowell High School sophomore Julia Nevel, who wants to pursue a career in business, said the seminars opened her eyes to how far-reaching the business field can be. “Learning about the different areas of business, like finance and accounting and marketing, all the different areas that you wouldn’t know about if you didn’t experience the camp. There’s more aspects than you would have imagined, and I learned more about them,” she said.

For Clarion Area High School freshman Colin Giering, the most important lesson he learned was that running a successful business takes patience. “I’m taking away that it takes time to build a business,” he said. “You can’t just create it in a day.”

Edinboro students worked alongside faculty and staff to facilitate the Academy, acting as “coaches” for the students. “We had five of our upperclassmen – one was actually a recent graduate, he graduated in May – from various different majors, and those five were coaches. Each one was assigned a team of four to five students, and they coached them throughout the week. It was an educational role and also a chaperone role. And from the comments we’re getting, the students loved the coaches, and the coaches have already been asking to come back next year.”

They aren’t the only ones. The students, in the feedback they provided near the Academy’s conclusion on June 20, indicated they would be interested in returning to the Academy next year and that their experience at Edinboro made them more likely to consider the university as they continue their own education.

“The students were actually asking if they could come back. … They want us to do an advanced one with higher-level classes for students who’ve already been through the program, so that they can then add to what they’ve learned this past week,” Dr. Miller said.

At the conclusion of the Academy, each student was awarded a certificate of achievement, and the judges handed out five awards: Best Presentation, Best Business Plan, Best Teamwork, Most Professional and Best Product Concept. They then enjoyed an ice cream social.

The university provided scholarships valued at $895 per student to cover all costs of participation, including housing on campus during the Academy.

More information on the Xavier and Tina Williams Summer Business Academy at Edinboro University can be obtained by contacting Ms. Kerri Watson in the Dean’s office of the School of Business at (814) 732-2460 or at watsonk@edinboro.edu.