CAMDEN, N.J. – Twenty-four students from Camden Academy Charter High School in Camden were among 60 budding business persons from around South Jersey attending Rowan University’s third annual Think Like an Entrepreneur Summer Academy this July.
The rising high school juniors and seniors participating in the academy themed around having a cleaner, healthier Earth, ecology, and climate change, spent eight days at Rowan University in Glassboro learning how to conceive, develop, and prototype their ideas. Students worked alongside faculty and student leaders to learn the basics of transforming an idea into a feasible, viable business.
According to Eric Liguori, executive director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Think Like an Entrepreneur Summer Academy can help students develop soft skills as well as specific entrepreneurial knowledge and expertise.
“Regardless of their intended major, we believe that all future business students — and the organizations that will eventually employ them — benefit from the type of creative mindset, hard work, and initiative that power startups,” Liguori said in a statement.
Camden Academy Charter High School program advisor, Joji Thompson, said the entrepreneurship academy has a number of academic benefits for the students.
“Students learn the process of creating a business model/strategic business plan, how to better work in groups, and practice public speaking,” Thompson said.
In addition to career oriented skills, the academy helps students gain exposure to student life on a college campus and learn to work with a team on a common goal.
“Students get to tour Rowan and get a feel for the Rowan University atmosphere and meet professors with great connections for future networking,” Thompson said.
Each day of the eight-day program consistedof some lectures, but the majority of the time the focus was on group work and creating a business model to sell a solution to a themed problem chosen by students. The end of the program is characterized by a sales-pitch that must be well presented and researched. Students completing the program earn three college credits.
Camden Academy senior Izic DeCasanova said one of the best parts of the academy for him was interacting with students from other schools.
“The first thing they did was to split us among the different schools,” DeCasanova said. “That takes us out of our comfort zone and challenges us.”
Thompson acknowledges the importance of intermingling the students. “[Placing the students with different schools] is a great way to see how students from other schools interact, and it is interesting to see the cultural differences and how those students work and the type of work ethic they have,” Thompson said.
While many of the students attending the academy are planning on majoring in some sort of business in college, those with other plans still found the academy beneficial.
Tiembra Bey, a junior at Camden Academy, saw the academy as an opportunity to learn about a different career path in case hers doesn’t work out. “I wanted a back-up plan,” she said. “I may also want to start a business someday.”
“This program is a great way to preview the business major to see if that is really what you want to do,” Thompson said.
The academy was presented by the Rohrer College of Business’ Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and sponsored by the TD Bank Charitable Foundation.