YES Summer Camp Students Fire Up Innovative Business Ideas

A Texas A&M International University summer program designed to introduce local high school students to the business world has helped 38 students develop award-winning business plans that could pay big dividends in their futures.

Dr. Michael Patrick, founder and director of the Youth Entrepreneurship Summer (YES) Camp, said students from two class sections made presentations of their business plans before several Laredo business leaders during a recently judged contest.

YES Camp students who have placed in this year's competition based on their business plans include the following:

* First Place: Christopher Sully (St. Augustine High School) based on his idea of a Sully Tae Kwon Do Academy, a self-defense training school for high school students.

* First Place: Arnoldo Samaniego (Alexander High School) and Mohit Mirpuri (United South High School) based on their business idea of Armos Grand Prix, a youth and family entertainment center consisting of a go-kart track, an arcade, and deli.

* Second Place: Robert Casarez (Cigarroa High School) and Tinskua Perez (Nixon High School) based on their business idea of The Fun House Games, a retail video and computer games store geared to Laredo's youth.

* Second Place: Asela Acosta (Alexander High School) and Ceara Byrne (St. Augustine High School) based on their idea of Au Natural, a health food store providing all-natural foods and health supplements.

* Third Place: Veronyka Flores (Martin High School) and Elizabeth Enriquez (Martin High School) based on their idea of The Thinking Gap Tutoring Center, an educational center providing individualized, computer aided tutoring to middle and high school students.

* Third Place: George Gunnoe (Alexander High School) and Raul Nuņez Jr. (Cigarroa High School) based on their idea of Different Music, a concert hall specializing in socially and environmentally conscious music in a safe and secure venue.

The purpose of the YES Camp is to provide all high school students an opportunity to explore the world of entrepreneurship and increase their understanding of the role free enterprise plays in achieving economic growth at the local, national and international level.

Programs such as the YES Camp play a crucial role in the development of businesses, Dr. Patrick said.

"Over 70 percent of Laredo's businesses are small and family owned, employing five or fewer employees. Reports indicate that over 50 percent of Laredo's high school students plan to work in a family business or start their own business after high school," he said.

Judges in this year's contest included Dr. John Adams, executive director of the Laredo Development Foundation; Adalberto Nava, senior vice president and business banking manager for Wells Fargo Bank; Marc Hinojosa, financial analysis officer for the Laredo National Bank and Araceli Lozano, director the Small Business Development Center.

Patrick noted widespread community support for the YES Camp.

"We have also received crucial sponsorship from community and corporate organizations such as the Laredo Manufacturing Association, Laredo Development Foundation, Laredo Chamber of Commerce, Southwestern Bell Company, Central Power & Light Company, Laredo National Bank, Wells Fargo Bank and Junior Achievement of Laredo," Patrick said, "A&M International sponsors include the Department of Economics and Finance, College of Business Administration and the Texas Center for Border Economic and Enterprise Development."

For additional information on the YES Camp, please contact Dr. Patrick at 326-2547. University office hours are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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