While work for most high school students generally takes on the form of a part-time job, teenagers do more than merely make up a highly attractive demographic for businesses-they create businesses, too. Thanks to a partnership between California high schools; California State University, Chico; and businesses in Northern California, the student-led Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) organization at Chico State is able to organize and host high schools for their International Trade Fair. Revolving around the ideals of entrepreneurship, business and economics, the competition is based on the judged presentations of projects and can be a combination of three types: entrepreneurship, virtual enterprise and/or community outreach. Each high school SIFE team is given a mentor from Chico State SIFE, which helps them create and develop project ideas.
Oakland's Fremont High School Business Academy's Cal-High SIFE team wowed a panel of judges this March and took first place in the competition. Their entrepreneurship project, dubbed BOMBAST (Business Operations Management Business Academy Student Team), provides more than 100 students and staff daily with a lunch program that offers additional food service at lunchtime and has reduced after-lunch truancy. Their community service project is a tutoring program, and they also have a business card service called CardEx, found at www.fhs.homestead.com.
Being that it's the Fremont SIFE team's first year in existence, their win was truly a sweet victory against the 22 other high schools. "The reason we won was, everyone had a job to prepare for this. It was a true team effort," shares Amy Carpenter, director of the Business Academy for Fremont High School.
Awarded $600 and an opportunity to send four team members to Seattle to watch the CSU Chico SIFE team at the SIFE Regional Competition, the teens found the entire experience inspiring. "When they announced we won, it was mayhem-the students jumped up and down; they were screaming," Carpenter recounts. "Oakland gets such a bad rap for low test scores and truancy. This really meant a lot in changing [how we are perceived]." -April Y. Pennington