Every April Winona State University coordinates a 3-day Entrepreneurship Mini-Camp, exclusively for Junior and Senior high school students who are enrolled in alternative learning centers (ALC’s). For varied reasons, these kids don’t do well in traditional high schools. Many of them come from homes with difficult family situations. Compared to students that attend traditional high schools, the average ALC kid smokes more cigarettes, has more body piercings, exhibits more tattoos, and has a wider variety of hair styles and colors.
Because most ALC students will choose not go on to college or technical school, we like to make them aware of the fact that entrepreneurship may be a viable alternative. During the weekend our ALC “campers” go on business tours, take classes, and hang around my staff of college Juniors and Seniors. My staff is enrolled in my entrepreneurship course and the responsibilities of putting on the camp are part of their class requirements.
Everybody learns something at this camp. The campers learn about entrepreneurship and life’s possibilities and my college staff learns that ALC kids, unlike the stereotype, are incredibly wonderful people. If you’ve lost faith in the “younger” generation, read the (below) reflections of my WSU students after the camp.
“I thought the camp was very beneficial and had a great impact on me as a person. I enjoyed getting to know the students and sharing life experiences with them. Although I may never see the kids again, I like to think that I helped them by encouraging them to pursue their goals and to work hard in life. Knowing that I may have impacted one or two lives over the weekend is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
“I feel this camp was very valuable to the students. I believe it opened up their eyes to a different community and area. It showed them there is more to life than the typical everyday lifestyle they are living in now.”
“I valued the amount of influence we had on these kids. They most likely came out of this camp with a different view of the world. I hope they realize that there are a lot of opportunities out there, whether they consider more schooling or search for a job straight out of school.”
“The students got to hear people tell them that there is a future for them, even though they probably won’t go to college. They got to deal with people who care about them and motivate them rather than always beating them down.”
“It appeared that a lot of these students come from a background were few have succeeded, so it was huge for them to hear that they can do whatever they want. They may not have retained all of the information that was presented to them, but through my interactions with the students they walked away with more than they came with.”
“Even if we changed one student’s future plans, the camp would be a success.”
I know that my college students gave much of themselves to these young ALC campers. But their comments indicate that they learned a lot about themselves in the process. Such is the paradox of giving; you often receive more than you give.