Sherry Yang, 19, spent several weeks during the summer before her senior year in high school attending the Pennsylvania School for Global Entrepreneurship at Lehigh University. In this essay, Yang reflects on PSGE’s powerful lessons in business, activism and leadership.
Squirrels have never interested me very much. However, this summer I was able to appreciate the novelty of squirrels on campus when I spent the last week of June and the month of July attending the Pennsylvania School for Global Entrepreneurship (PSGE) at Lehigh University.
Previously one of the eight Governor’s Schools sponsored by the state of Pennsylvania, PSGE is a five-week program for high school students from Pennsylvania and abroad who have completed their sophomore and junior years. Like the other schools, participants were chosen based on much of the same criteria as selective colleges use for their applicants. Program topics at different schools ranged from health care to agriculture to the arts to business. Two of the programs, including our own, continued this summer under different names—and with prices attached to them—after Governor Ed Rendell cut funding for all the schools from the state budget in January. Trish Alexy, our program director, was able to keep our business program at PSGE going, thus ensuring 76 students access to new opportunities, ideas and dreams.
Lehigh’s campus sits on the side of rolling hills in Bethlehem, Pa. and overlooks a city that used to be a center for steel manufacturing. From the road outside our dorms, we could see the city and its smokestacks, which were lit up with dozens of mesmerizing red spotlights at night. We had 13 international students with us, many of whom were shocked to find that squirrels come down from the trees in America. Our days and nights were filled with a constant soundtrack of students’ favorite music, which poured out from speakers, from headphones, from pianos, from laptops, from flutes, from drums, from guitars, from windows and from mouths. The music rolled down the hills, down the steps towards Rauch Business Center and mingled with PSGE students as they milled about the pathways, patios and streets of the campus and town.
While at PSGE, I worked as a consultant for a regional charter school in a small team, attended seminars on business ethics, finance, leadership, management, creativity, win-win negotiating, globalization, non-profit entrepreneurship, social media, green technology and patent law, and heard entrepreneurs from different countries speak about their experiences. I learned about injecting emotional appeals into a speech from classmate Scott who once said, “To teach a man to fish…you first need a hook and worms! Without some initial capital, nothing can be done.” I learned how to speak more eloquently from classmate Nora who ended her pitch speech for her fiber optics company with “JF Magic, bringing you safety at the speed of light.”
I admire the students I was with because of their intellect and passion. Many of my classmates are budding entrepreneurs. Back at home, Conner is selling mailboxes, Pelle is writing music, Dominique is saving the arts with her own Strokes of Love foundation, Scott is preparing his origami book for publication, Jeff is selling chicken eggs, Marilyn is writing bylaws for her save-the-music charity, Veri is applying to take courses at UPenn in the fall as a junior in high school, and Lorenza is making dresses out of newspaper and trash bags.
What PSGE needs, as do the other Governor’s Schools, is funding. How much our parents make should not decide who can attend an educational program. Without the ability to offer its participants scholarships, the two schools that have continued to run will face problems in marketing and in finding the right students for their application pool next year. The programs cannot hope to attract the same students when they cost thousands of dollars to attend. These programs are gateways to new lives for hundreds of students every year. The rest of the Governor’s Schools community and I are hoping that Ed Rendell will say yes, and resume funding for these programs. In fact, Taylor Swift’s song “Love Story” became our theme song at PSGE with a slight alteration to encourage support from Gov. Rendell: “It’s a Gov story, Eddie, just say yes!”
What I have learned with PSGE cannot be measured by tests or grades. What we all learned in the classroom was only a small portion of the experience. I learned about people, about their diversity, weaknesses and strengths. I learned about myself, about the real world that I am about to enter. I cannot express how motivating it is to be in an environment with people who are all invested in their futures to the same degree or more than I am. Though I miss the friends I have made, I know I will see them again. I will see my peers from PSGE at major universities conducting research, running their own businesses, becoming activists and leaders in their communities, making sensational music and most importantly—eagerly looking forward to what the future holds for them.
National Conference of Governor’s Schools