Every summer, students who have completed at least one year of high school wave goodbye to their families and head off to college and the business world for one week. For more than 14 years, JA Business Week has been furthering the Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain, Inc. mission to empower young people to own their future economic success through education about financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness, all while having the college experience on a real campus.
Students live in the dorms of Johnson & Wales University and go to classes on the campus. Between 250 and 300 students from 64 Colorado schools will attend this year’s camp from June 5–10. Approximately 50 percent of students attend on scholarships provided by participating companies. Although the national organization offers programs in schools for grades K-12 throughout the school year, JA Business Week is unique to Colorado’s branch of Junior Achievement.
Participating companies offer challenges in real business projects that students may face in their future careers, including marketing, budgeting, ethics, etiquette, networking and public speaking. The week’s projects vary, depending on the number of years students have attended. This year, students will help Otter Box design a cell phone case and marketing plan aimed at the teen market; they’ll help a food truck develop into a retail location; and some will learn how to start their own business. The week culminates in what Kim McGrigg, director of communications for Junior Achievement, describes as a Shark Tank-style competition where student teams pitch their ideas to a panel of judges made up of community business leaders.
Reilly Thomas, a senior at Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) at Stapleton, attended JA Business Week last year. She came away learning how to communicate better with people in a stressful, time-sensitive environment, skills she’s sure she’ll use in the future. “I think they’ll be useful in the ‘real world’ because communication is extremely important in every area of our lives. So if I didn’t know how to effectively communicate with my co-workers on whatever we were working on, the process and the product would be more stressful and probably not the best end-product we could have made if we had the right communication skills,” she says.
JA Business Week is an ideal, and nearby, solution to DSST’s 11th-grade requirement to participate in a summer academic enrichment program. “It’s great experience and they are able to accept many of our underserved students who are on free and reduced-price lunches,” says Velma Bibby, DSST’s summer programs coordinator.
Research done by Junior Achievement before and after Business Week shows that students grow their confidence in networking, expressing ideas, public speaking, interviewing and exploring careers. Being able to discuss what they’ve gained through the JA Business Week experience on college essays has also proven helpful to many students. “Plus, we have students who come to us years later and tell us JA changed the trajectory of their lives and opened up opportunities they didn’t know existed before,” says McGrigg. “To be able to work with people from all different schools and all different backgrounds, it’s just an experience you can’t get anywhere else.”
For more information regarding cost, scholarships and registration, visit www.jabusinessweek.org/register. Camp registration is accepted until the camp is full with a registration discount available until March 1.