|by Jim Amidon • July 10, 2005|
My favorite week of the summer at Wabash began Sunday.
With most Wabash students gone for summer break, the place can be pretty dull for many of us not tied up in conferences or business office audits.
But Sunday 50 rising high school seniors arrived on campus for the week-long Opportunities to Learn About Business (OLAB) program. The students hail from all over the state (and some from as far away as Oklahoma and Connecticut) and are split roughly 50-50 boys and girls. They are a joy to teach and be with from beginning to end. Click on the photo album link below to see pictures.
The "labbies," as we call them, are in for a camp like none other.
This is a camp that will push them as hard as they have ever been pushed as they learn tricky business concepts, create advertising campaigns, give speeches, and interact with kids they’ve never before met.
That’s probably why I like the program so much.
OLAB takes the students out of their comfort zones and forces them into uncomfortable situations where they have to respond and react quickly. In many ways, the academic components of the program are akin to the way we teach and learn at Wabash. From day one at Wabash, students realize quickly they are no longer in high school. They are stripped of their comfortable cockiness and forced to open their eyes and brains to new ideas.
The Labbies learned that just an hour into their campus stay. Unlike many camps where students spend the first day or two getting the feel of the place, OLAB students were immediately thrust into a workshop, lecture, and a production game.
Sure, they got some free time last night to get to know one another, their counselors, roommates, and the campus.
But starting at 8:30 on Monday morning, they’re hard at it in the classroom. Today they’ll learn the principles of marketing, participate in a marketing game simulation, have lunch, and diveight into accounting.
Just imagine 50 students willing to spend a week of their precious summer learning accounting! Not only are these kids bright, they are goal oriented and they know OLAB will give them a leg up as they begin their senior year and then their search for a college.
As the week unfolds, the students will give an array of speeches and presentations. They’ll get a high-speed dose of Business 101, Marketing 101, Advertising 101, and Stock Market 101. By Wednesday they’ll be physically and mentally exhausted.
And that’s when the fun starts.
By mid-week they are broken into teams of four or five students competing against other teams in a complex business simulation game.
Once the game has begun every team has to construct, market, and sell a similar product amidst threats of labor strikes, union negotiations, the opening of foreign markets, environmental concerns,and just about any situation a real business can face.
By the time they graduate next Saturday, the students should have a good handle on how businesses, large and small, operate, how they make money, and how they differentiate themselves from their competition.
I love the program and have been involved with it for more than a decade because I enjoy watching how quickly the students grow and mature; how quickly they pick up the concepts and come up with creative solutions to problems.
And the very, very best part of OLAB is that no student is charged a penny for such an enriching program. The generosity of sponsors enables the students to attend the camp (which should cost about $1200 per student) completely for free.
So this week you’ll see lots of new (and tired) faces walking around the Wabash campus. Say hello and congratulate them on being selected for the program and for the wisdom to give up a week of summer vacation to challenge themselves in all-new ways.