TAMIU Biz Camp 'Snacks' of Success for Middle School Students

(Rio Bravo) - While only in the 8th grade, Carolina Arriaga already knows how to take accurate minutes during a business board meeting for her snack bar business.

That is, a mock snack bar business she and her classmates are operating this summer as a project for Biz Camp, a Texas A&M International University Texas Center for Border Economic and Enterprise Development (TCBEED) program initiative to bring micro- enterprise awareness to colonia residents.

The group, which meets weekly at Salvador García Middle School, is fully structured as a small business, complete with a president, vice president, marketing, sales and human resources departments and even options to buy stocks. (photo)

By participating in the program, Arriaga hopes to learn essential business skills that can help her in the future.

"This is helpful because if you want to do business, you already know what to do," said Arriaga.

Thanks to the program, Arriaga is now aware what departments and functions comprise a traditional business.

"I'm learning about different kinds of jobs that are available in a company," Arriaga said, filling out an application form to obtain a job as a public relations manager for the snack bar company.

Now in its second year, Biz Camp is a program supported by a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant and aims at encouraging economic development in colonias through entrepreneurial education in middle schools. Local sponsors include Junior Achievement of Laredo, International Bank of Commerce and the collaboration of United Independent School District.

Patricia Canseco, Texas Center colonia development project coordinator and Biz Camp teacher, said Center research shows that the majority of local colonia population is young.

"Based on research from Census data, we found that since colonia youth population ranges from eight to 22 years of age, we should also start preparing young students for entrepreneurial training," Canseco said, "The local colonias lack economic development and we've figured that if the children are motivated, they will pursue either starting a business or coming back and helping their community."

At Biz Camp, students are taught the basics of personal finance, tools for managing money, characteristics and traits of entrepreneurs, recognition of needs to service markets and basic steps of starting a business. At the same time, students learn that they are also part of the economy.

As members of this year's Biz Camp, Arriaga and her classmates are going to sell their snacks both in school and out of school, taking orders by phone and even making deliveries to homes in Rio Bravo and adjoining El Cenizo.

At the end of summer, they will liquidate the company, after having paid all stockholders their share.

Thania Martínez, an 8th grade student at Salvador Garcia Middle School, is also a part of Biz Camp and will serve as president of the company.

"I know this class will give us an education to be somewhere in life," Martínez said.

Martínez, who was elected president by her peers based on a speech she gave in front of them, said she hopes to operate the company with a positive attitude.

"My goal is to bring this company to success and learn about each of us," Martínez said, "We can make it happen if everyone puts their effort and work together."

For further information about the Biz Camp, please contact Patty Canseco at 326-2846, e-mail pgcanseco@tamiu.edu or visit offices located in the Western Hemispheric Trade Center, room 221.

University summer office hours are 7:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday. Offices are closed on Fridays.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu