A&M International Pilots Youth Entrepreneurship Summer Camp

When it's time to offer that dread essay on summer activity this fall, four local teens will be able to say they were able to have a hands-onopportunity to become Laredo's newest and perhaps youngestentrepreneurs.

The four, United High School students Gus Elizondo and Ryan Silvashy and Nixon High School students Adriana Ortiz and Grissel Molina, were the first participants in the Texas A&M International University Youth Entrepreneurship Summer Camp, a pilot program offered by A&M International's College of Business Administration.

Dr. Michael Patrick, chair of the Department of Economics and Finance at the College of Business Administration, said the effort is designed to foster an appreciation for the value of free enterprise and the role of business in society and local communities.

"The summer camp is designed to give high school students a first-hand look at how to start and operate a small business. Through a combination of classroom exercises, homework assignments and field visits, the students learn to identify business opportunities, register a small business, conduct market research, develop a marketing plan and sales strategy, negotiate with a wholesale dealer and seek financing," Dr. Patrick explained.

The camp's central activity sees students take a step-by-step approach to launching a business of their choice, he noted.

"They have to create a detailed business plan, including projected sales, costs and profits for their business. At the end of the course, the students present their business plan to a loan committee and seek start- up funding," he explained.

Patrick said the students' plans were impressive and included a car washing service, a roving clown entertainer and a cookie-making venture.

"They were innovative, thoroughly researched and I believe have the ability to be successful businesses. They performed in the true entrepreneurial spirit and we are impressed with their efforts," Patrick said.

The students, all of whom will earn three hours of University credit for ECO 4399, "Special Issues in Economics-Entrepreneurship," by qualifying for concurrent enrollment at A&M International. All were recommended by their high school counselors based on outstanding academic performance and an interest in a business career.

The pilot program was underwritten with a generous grant by Norwest Bank of Texas-Laredo which provided student scholarships including tuition and fees and incidental expenses to participate in the program.

Organizers also worked closely with the Laredo Junior Achievement Office to identify eligible students. The Laredo Development Foundation assisted with other associated program costs.

Patrick said this summer's pilot program offers a thumbprint for a larger program which will be launched next summer.

"The Texas A&M International University Youth Entrepreneurship Summer Camp will become a six-week program with limited enrollment to local and area high school students who qualify for concurrent enrollment at the University. We'll be visiting schools and meeting with students and high school counselors to begin enrolling students for the program in March and April," he explained.

Patrick said the Summer Camp is part of a new undertaking by the College of Business Administration that is known as the Economic Education and Enterprise Development Project (EEEDP).

"This initiative will work to promote a series of activities designed to build upon the powerful spirit of enterprise that creates and captures new business opportunities in Laredo and our service area. We commend this spirit and will develop supportive and informative activities that will help this spirit to excel," Patrick said.

"In addition to an expanded Youth Entrepreneurship Summer Camp program, the EEED project is planning to initiate a summer economics education training program (Economic Education Summer Institute) for area high and middle school economics and business teachers and a year- round enterprise development project for small business owners/managers and aspiring entrepreneurs in area colonias and rural communities in Webb County, to be known as the Colonias and Rural Communities Enterprise Development Program," Patrick explained.

The EEEDP will receive financial support from the Laredo Development Foundation and Norwest Bank of Texas-Laredo. Patrick will continue to coordinate the College's EEEDP activities.

For additional information on the Texas A&M International University Youth Entrepreneurship Summer Camp or the Economic Education and Enterprise Development Project, please contact Dr. Patrick at 326.2515 , email to jmpatrick@tamiu.edu or visit offices at Pellegrino Hall room 304.

A&M International hours of operation are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Friday.