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Program offers Young Scholars entrepreneurship insight

Published: 2014-07-25

Twenty-one high school students recently received an exclusive look into the world of business as they gathered at Fisher to participate in the 2014 Samuel DuBois Cook Summer Academy, presented by The Ohio State University Office of Diversity & Inclusion’s Young Scholars Program.

As part of the two-week residential program, the Young Scholars participated in Fisher’s Entrepreneurship Experience. They were given the opportunity to explore a business idea, develop a business plan and budget and pitch their ideas to a panel of real-life entrepreneurs in a setting similar to the popular TV show “Shark Tank.”

Teams of students from throughout Ohio presented ideas ranging from creating a new line of running socks designed to minimize ankle injuries to a concept for a “Chipotle”-style, build-your-own pizza franchise.

“This program was a great opportunity to get real-life insight into business,” said student Allison Mayfield-Brown, who won the “Best CEO” award. “I’ve learned how to learn in a group, how to learn from other people and how to take into consideration the perspectives of others. Everybody’s perspectives don’t always match your own—sometimes that’s the best thing in the world, and sometimes it’s the worst thing in the world.”

Students spent three days working with faculty and staff at Fisher on their business plans and visited Accel Inc., a New Albany-based contract packaging facility for companies such as L Brands, Honeywell and Bath & Body Works.

“This program gives young students a feel for what business is like, but rather than introducing it through a series of dry lectures, we threw them into the deep end of the pool and gave them an entrepreneurial case to work through,” said Francisco Gomez-Bellenge, associate to the dean at Fisher. “This hands-on learning is congruent with the action-based curriculum at Fisher and is very much in keeping with our focus on creating valuable partnerships with the external community.”

Alex Mendoza, owner and president of the Mendoza Company, a McDonald’s franchisee, and past president and board member for the Hispanic Chamber of Columbus, served as one of the judges of the business plan competition. He was impressed with the depth of knowledge and professionalism exhibited by the Young Scholars.

“These kids were smart and very articulate. We had to double-check that they were still in high school,” he said. “This is a great program. I didn’t have it when I was a kid in high school. It’s a great tool for outreach and diversity into the community.”

Other judges for the competition included Brian Brooks, president and co-owner of E.E. Ward Moving & Storage; Phil Wilson, founder, president and CEO of Fine Citizens; and Elvira Teran, associate brand manager at Wendy’s and a Fisher alumna.

Although the competition was a whirlwind introduction into business and entrepreneurship, Fisher’s Entrepreneurship Experience succeeded in opening students’ eyes to the value of a business education and opportunities beyond.

“This program definitely changed how I thought about the world,” said Isaac Anaya, a student. “My idea was go to college, get my education and then look for a job, but it’s bigger than that. It’s actually going out and finding connections and interacting with people.”

Sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Young Scholars Program was developed to identify and prepare academically talented middle- and high-school students from economically disadvantaged households for college success. In addition to drawing students from Ohio’s nine largest urban school districts, this year’s program also included students from Metro Early College High School.

The Office of Diversity & Inclusion Young Scholars Program has supported more than 3,000 pre-collegiate and collegiate scholars, providing them with comprehensive academic, career, and personal development programs in partnership with school district administrators and staff; Ohio State faculty, staff, students, and alumni; and community and corporate partners.

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