The GVSU Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy (TESA) is a week-long summer program for high school students. The program focuses on cultivating awareness of and interest in the unique entrepreneurial ecosystem of Grand Rapids, while also providing students the knowledge and tools for starting their own businesses. It is an exceptional opportunity for high school students to interact and learn on a college campus. During the five day program, students work with college faculty and current GVSU students to solve a real-world problem through entrepreneurship. The program provides students with fundamental business concepts and essential entrepreneurship skills through hands-on, creative workshops. On the last day, the teams present their five-minute business idea pitch to a panel of judges from the local community for a cash prize. To aid the students in this presentation GVSU faculty, current entrepreneurial college students, and local entrepreneurs provided training and mentorship.

The 2016 TESA program saw 36 students from 23 different high schools across the state of Michigan. Sponsors included Amway, KENT ISD, Ernst & Young, the Seidman College of Business, and the Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Together they provided cash and prizes for the student entrepreneurs that totaled over $5,000.

Each year, TESA features a theme for the students to focus their ideas toward. This year’s theme was healthcare. To assist students in understanding the challenges associated with healthcare, we kicked off the week with an intensive poverty simulation conducted by Access West Michigan. The hour and half long exercise grouped students into fictitious families experiencing poverty and challenged them to meet their basic needs within a certain time frame. We followed this exercise with a trip to Spectrum Health Innovations to listen to a dynamic panel of health care professionals as they highlighted issues rampant in the current system. Later in the week, Kangaroo Kitchen hosted a healthy cooking workshop, Fulton Street Farmers Market gave a presentation on the value of local food markets, Start Garden introduced the students to what an entrepreneurial ecosystem looks like, and the David D. Hunting YMCA hosted us for rock climbing, volleyball, hula hooping, and basketball. Students were also given the opportunity to work with improvisation expert Amy Gascon from Dog Story Theater to improve their stage presence and team building skills. Throughout the week students were under the instruction of Peg Shoenborn and Dr. Tim Syfert. Shoenborn and Dr. Syfert guided them through ideation, prototyping, planning and market research, and management and operations.

At the end of the week, the student teams pitched their business ideas to a panel of judges made up of Tina Bain, Director of Global Special Events at Amway; Alaina Clarke, Conference Program Manager at Society of North American Goldsmiths; Michael Czechowskyj, Clinical Innovations Specialist at Spectrum Health; Paul Moore, Chief Marketing Officer at Start Garden; and Kevin Schnell, Executive Director at Ernst and Young.

Ravel Bowman, George Ebeling, Abigail Johandes, Alicia Mendez and Jennifer Puente took home first prize and $2,500 for Time to Get Fresh, a business that would utilize the school bus system to provide children qualifying for free or reduced lunch with fresh produce and recipes. Sofia Alfaro, Genevieve Doyle, Benjamin Janes, Miranda Pablo and Jaspreet Singh were awarded second place and $1,500 for Crane Care, a business that would equip elementary schools with health care clinics. Nicholas Baran, Michaela Gheorghiu, Joey Paliwoda, Alex Plouff and Allison Smart received third place and $1,000 for A New Page, a company that would utilize medical social work students to address mental health care in prisons.

2016 Students’ Testimonials:

“I was wavering with what to do after high school, but I really think I may have found my path.”

“I had a great experience at TESA. I look forward to what this camp has given me to use in the real world.”

“This camp is my favorite camp of the summer. I did it last year and decided to come back because I learned so much. I would like to thank the whole TESA staff for making this camp 10 times better than it already was. The experiences and lessons I’ve learned I will keep forever. I can’t wait until next year.”

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