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Students Experience Entrepreneurship; S.E.A.L. Style

Javon Williams
Nicholas Hedgpeth

Throughout its 5-year annual tenure, the Teen Entrepreneurship Bootcamp sat amongst its only rival; itself. This 2-week camp has continued to task itself with the challenge of creating an environment where a selected group of students from camps located around Edgecombe County could learn about entrepreneurship; NCGrowth has supported this effort for the last four years.

The Teen Entrepreneurship Bootcamp hosted by the NC Cooperative Extension along with Nash and Edgecombe County, puts together a striking display of leadership each year by teaching these students financial literacy, business creditability, and career readiness through various forms of workshops.

Each year the hosts of the camp, Traci Dixon and Jamilla Hawkins strive to enhance the experience through the dint of hard work and prior learned experience. The idea is to build an environment where students are not content with the congeniality of the camp, but instead to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Ja’Von Williams and I, undergraduate students at North Carolina Central University and interns for NCGrowth, dove in head first to push toward progression with the camp.

We began with the revamp of the name, logo, and social media presence. The “Teen Entrepreneurship Bootcamp” became “S.E.A.L.,” which stands for Summer Entrepreneurship and Leadership Camp. This was believed to create a better understanding for what the students should be prepared for; moreover, we allowed this to influence the motto: “SEAL the Deal.” Now, along with the recreation of the name, the logo followed. After that, it was time for us to create a social media presence for Instagram (@s.e.a.l.camp) and Twitter (@sealcamp17), which now flourishes with pictures and posts about the camp’s success.

It’s all about keeping the students engaged, so that they not only receive the information, but also retain it. From our brain teasers to the icebreakers to the presentations, we worked together to propel a montage of learning sessions that would allow the students to search the realms of their potential. One of the icebreakers we had the students participate in required the students to uncomfortably link their arms together and move their full bodies through a single hula-hoop until it was back to where it started. The catch was that we told them that they couldn’t use their hands or their voices! This icebreaker not only forced them to think outside of the box, but to learn how to work with others without being able to verbally communicate. This excited me because I understood that the strategy was not only affective for me, but also the students.

We constantly told them to expect the unexpected. The students never knew what was to come next. There was even an added session for teaching the students, male and female, how to tie a tie once it was discovered that not a single student was taught this skill before!

Alas, after the assignments, workshops and visiting the American Underground, the ultimate and final project for the students at the camp was to create their very own Shark Tank pitch. They would then present to a panel of judges who would ask them the same questions as the would the actual TV show. This meant that the pressure was on! It was also on for Ja’Von and me to help each of them to tighten up on their businesses to ensure their success!

With a first, second, and third place spot the students battled to reach the top spot of $300. Taking away the crown was Alanna Dixon of MaliBuns (pictured right); the company named after her brother dedicated to her passion for baking cinnamon buns. Her presentation, Q&A impressiveness, and performance were enough to get her the win.

Though there is an ultimate outcome of one winner of the Shark Tank pitch, the true goal for the NC Cooperative Extension is to build young entrepreneurs who will not give up on their goals and who will work in the community to better themselves and those around them. This is what makes the camp experience successful.

Nicholas Hedgepeth is an undergraduate student at North Carolina Central University and an NCGrowth intern.

Story by Nicholas Hedgpeth

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