Last week, 108 high school students representing 48 different high schools from Oregon, Washington, Texas and Canada visited the Oregon State campus and the College of Business for the annual Young Entrepreneurs Business Week program for a week of hands-on learning experiences.
Program participants spent their week being exposed to a curriculum designed to teach students that business can be fun and exciting. During the program, each student is placed in a student-led company comprised of 8-10 students. The YEBW organizers say that they take the students’ geography, educational background, age, and other factors into account to create intentionally diverse teams of students, which are then guided by real executives from the business community who share their knowledge and expertise with the students throughout the week.
Once the students are placed with their teams and mentors, they create management teams, develop a mission statement, invent a product, and conduct actual operation of their own business by competing in business simulations. However, the instruction goes far beyond the business curriculum. Designed to broaden the practical skill sets of each student, YEBW incorporates professional speakers and other interactive learning exercises such as mock interviews, a professional etiquette dinner, networking events and plenty of social activities along the way. The goal of the curriculum is to provide students with the financial literacy, business fundamentals and confidence that they need to be self-sufficient and successful, priming the pipeline for the next generation of business and community leaders.
West Linn High School Junior Nathan Bergstrom, whose grandfather and father are both OSU alumni, said that although the curriculum is demanding, it’s more than worthwhile.
“This week has been intense, but also a lot of fun,” said Bergstrom. “Coming in, I don’t know that we necessarily understood what all goes into owning a successful business. The amount of planning it takes just to get started is a little surprising, but it’s also really rewarding and gives you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment,” he said.
Young Entrepreneurs Business Week’s mission is to “build the next generation of business leaders” and was created because of increasing concern that Oregon’s youth of all educational and economic backgrounds were coming out of high school with no practical business knowledge, thus hindering their ability to innovate, create and produce the kinds of goods and services key to every community’s growth and success. The YEBW organization was born in 2006 when a small group of entrepreneurs decided to fill the gap by drawing together curriculum developers, business professionals, educators and successful youth-focused program leaders to launch their educational program.