MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Students from all over the country attended Georgia College’s 32nd Minority Youth Business Program last week. The program’s goal since its inception in 1985 has been educating minority high school students about various aspects of the business world.
“We teach them about entrepreneurship, expose them to college, improve their leadership skills and we also teach them social responsibility with their business,” said Keri Pompey, director of the Minority Youth Business Program and a senior marketing major at GC. “We want the participants to go to college, and if they don’t go to college, we want them to have a plan when they get out.”
This year’s participants went through a rigorous process of filling out an application, submitting an essay and transcript and obtaining a letter of recommendation from a school counselor and a teacher in order to be eligible for the program. Participants were also required to be uprising juniors and seniors in high school with at least a 2.5 GPA.
Upon acceptance, the 45 students from four different states arrived at GC June 11 to begin the program. Guest speakers and the program’s staff of GC students taught participants a various aspects of the business world like how to dress for a job interview and how to start their own business.
“I wanted them to see how much is put into creating a business and what it’s like to be in the field of business,” said Chancelynn Ridley, a program staff member and a senior at GC. “We’re all minority students, so I wanted them to see that it’s possible for us to own businesses and establish things.”
Program staff members put on a fashion show in which they showed students the proper ways to dress for a job in the business world. Participants also had a dinner earlier in the week to show them proper manners to use when entertaining clients or bosses over a meal.
“We’ve learned about networking and how it’s important to be professional,” said Samantha Bernal, a program participant who is a senior from Grayson. “And we’ve learned the importance of getting your name out there when you’re first starting a business.”
For the program participants, perhaps the biggest challenge was to putting together a college-level business plan. The students were divided into six different groups where they came up with a business plan for a new product or service within their specific industry. At the end of the week, students presented their plans to a panel of judges who acted as potential investors.
“We have fashion, health care, education, technology and non-profit groups,” said Ridley. “When they first got those industries, ideas were everywhere, but as they’ve been narrowing down their ideas after researching to figure out what customers actually need in each industry, they’ve come up with some really unique projects.”
Regardless of the project they worked on, many students, like Noah Evans, a junior from Lake Wylie, S.C., said that the program was beneficial and brought an understanding of how businesses work.
“I hoped to get a better understanding of what it takes to grow my own business, but this week has kind of been like a slap in the face. This program shows you it’s not easy,” said Evans. “You can’t just go to the bank, say you want to start a business and expect them to give you the money. You have to have an idea and certain things laid out before you can start a business.”
Along with using the skills learned to create business plans, students also learned to adjust to the college living experience. They lived on campus in dorms and ate meals at the Maxwell Student Dining Hall.
“I haven’t really gotten that college experience from back at home,” said Alicia Rivera, a program participant from Los Angeles, Calif. “To be here and actually experience missing home and being able to be in a dorm with a roommate helped me to see that this is what it might be like once I go into college.”
Though participants took a couple of days to really find their footing in a new environment, staff members said they really saw the students grow while working to develop their business plans.
“We’ve learned that when you set out to start a company, you can’t just be in it for the money, because if you end up like that you won’t have a passion,” said Bernal. “And if you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing other companies and other people won’t find it worthwhile to pay attention to your company.”
Aside from learning a lot about ways to start your own business, some students said that participating in the program has opened up new life and career avenues for them.
“My options of what I want to do later on in my future have definitely expanded,” said Rivera. I’ve only been in programs that involve politics in the past because that’s something that I think I want to be involved with, but this is definitely another way for me to have different degree options when it comes to college.”