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Governor’s School trains tomorrow’s business leaders

High school students from across Pennsylvania learned business by doing business when they took part in the 7th annual Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Global Entrepreneurship (PGSGE) this summer.

“We want them to be able to work on real projects,” says Trish Alexy, director of the PGSGE program. “They got their hands around real projects and gained firsthand experience that they really can’t get anywhere else.”

The program was hosted by Lehigh University’s College of Business and Economics and the College of Education and exposed current 10th and 11th grade students to the business world while teaching them the ins and outs of entrepreneurship, business administration, finance, e-commerce, marketing, management, international commerce, economics and world cultures.

Lehigh's PGSGE program is one of eight Pennsylvania’s Governor’s Schools of Excellence that offers academically and artistically gifted high school students the opportunity to study on a college campus.

“It really opens your eyes. I know my town is pretty small and this showed me how many more types of people there are out there,” says Charishma Soni, a student from Indiana, Pa. “And not only did we get to meet students from all over the state but also from all over the world. We had people from places like Kuwait, Palestine, Italy, and Denmark.”

A valuable team-building experience

Lehigh’s program is the only Governor’s School program that is open to international students in order to create a global atmosphere that students will find in the real world of business.

“I wanted them to gain valuable team-building experience,” says Alexy. “An entrepreneur has to understand that they can’t do it alone they have to know how to build a great team around them in order to build a business. In this program they have to learn with different cultures, they have at least one international student on every team from. Having students from all different kinds of cultural backgrounds is very important to what they’re learning.”

Lehigh President Alice P. Gast says that the university’s highly regarded College of Business and Economics, state-of-the-art facilities, and passion for education serves as the perfect foundation for creating tomorrow’s business leaders.

“There’s an infectious spirit of entrepreneurship that pervades campus and I’m sure that interacting with our students as some of their mentors was really good for them,” Gast says.

Kristen Silfies ’08 used her Lehigh experiences as an accounting and finance major and vice president of her class to help the high school students focus on their own business goals.

“I definitely couldn’t have done this without my Lehigh education,” says Silfies. “The things that I’ve learned in the business school really did help. There’s no way I could have helped them prepare this report without having management class and learning what goes into a business plan and a marketing plan and all of those things. Even though they have speakers, they need someone to personally work with them and someone who knows what’s going on.”

Thirteen companies from the surrounding areas allowed the high school students to join their businesses and serve as fully functional employees creating business plans, researching consumer habits, and even creating a brand new marketing campaign.

“I was very impressed with the breadth of the collaborating companies; they span fields from technology to art, and include non-profit and profit-making companies,” says Gast. “It gave the students an exposure to a lot of different businesses and I think real-life problems that students were challenged with will help them deal with the kinds of problems they will eventually face at their jobs.”

Lauren Cuzzaniti, a high school student from York, Pa., was impressed with her group’s progress but says the mentors have a lot to do with their success.

“They always bring up things that we skim over or how little details really matter. A lot of times we would understand the overall pictures but they made sure we were meticulous,” says Cuzzaniti.

Silfies said that the high school students were not the only ones who came away with newfound knowledge.

“I really think I learned a lot from the kids,” says Silfies. “They teach you a lot about yourself and your own style of leading and also when to let things go and when to worry about something. Plus, I learned more about my own interests in international business (while working with the high school students in the program).”

Gast hopes that the knowledge gained from this program will not only help the students with their future business endeavors but also in their everyday lives and relationships.

“I hope they really took away a sense of how to tackle complicated problems as a team and how they can rise to challenges that are totally unexpected and new to them,” Gast says.

--Madelyn King

Posted on Friday, August 10, 2007

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