Thursday, July 10, 2008
High school students exercise business skills at OU camp
|Jabari Shabazz (left) and his teammates Jeneal Gonzales (center) and Alex Saunders (right) practice before making their presentation to a panel of judges.|
By Rebecca Wyatt Thomas, OU Web writer
High school students from Pontiac, Oak Park and Detroit spent the first part of their summer vacation earning money for college. They weren’t working at retail locations or restaurants; they earned the money while in the classroom. Through the School of Business Administrations Entrepreneurship Institute camp, the students not only learned about business, they put their knowledge to the test in hands-on activities. Each student who completed the camp was awarded a $500 scholarship and has the possibility of earning more money if they choose to attend Oakland University’s School of Business when they graduate from high school.
Through a gift from the Comerica Charitable Foundation in 2005, the Entrepreneurship Institute is able to run the camp for economically disadvantaged teens. OU students from the Students in Free Enterprise organization serve as mentor for the campers.
Students must apply to the Entrepreneurship Camp. They are selected based on grade-point average, desire to participate and financial need. Twenty-two students from Detroit, Pontiac and Oak Park participated in the camp. For the first year, students from Young Detroit Builders, a program for Detroit Public Schools students who have dropped out of high school but want to fix the mistake, also participated in the camp.
“The students are divided into teams and work with a mentor. They learn about business plans and then create their own business plan, which they present to a panel of judges that serve as bankers. The teams compete against each other for additional scholarships. The first place team received $300, second place received $250 and third place received $100,” said Brennon Edwards, president of SIFE.
Jabari Shabazz and his teammates Jeneal Gonzales and Alex Saunders developed the Spiraltronic System, a fingerprint system for operating a car. They marketed the system as a way to get rid of car keys.
“We used the experience from our classes to put together the final presentation,” Shabazz said.
Shabazz, an incoming senior at Pontiac Central High School, participated in a SIFE-related program at school. He learned about the Entrepreneurship Institute camp and decided to apply.
“I was just planning to work this summer. This camp kept me occupied while learning and having fun. It gives me a business background for the future and I earned a scholarship,” said Shabazz, who has aspirations of becoming a movie director.
The camp ran June through July 8. Students stayed in the residence halls during the week. They participated in team-building activities at Camp Tamarack in Oxford, attended daily classes, met in group session to work on their business plans and participated in hands-on activities.
“We took the group to Gibralter Trade Center and gave each group the same item to sell. This taught them about competition and market research. They had to make decisions about pricing, location and figure out how to set themselves apart. Some teams earned a lot of money, some teams earned nothing. In the end, the teams were able to split their profits.”
The campers also learned more about teamwork.
“We had to work together with other students with different personalities and different experiences,” Shabazz said.
Fourteen members from SIFE advised the campers and served as mentors. The campers also learned from local business executives who reviewed their business plans and gave them advice.
This was the seventh year of the Entrepreneurship Institute camp, which has about 20 to 25 campers participate each year.
“We had a zero percent turn-over rate this year. All 22 campers earned at least $500 toward college,” Edwards said. “I also saw a difference in every single student since the beginning of the camps. I didn’t expect that to happen. A lot of the students matured. Some of them came to the camp and they didn’t want to be there or they were nervous. They got to know each other, they got competitive in their groups and they got comfortable with what they were doing. They started to grow. Toward the end of the camp, they had a whole different attitude about the experience and each other.”
For more information on the Entrepreneurship Institute, visit the School of Business Web site.