The Essential Educator is a monthly blog written for high school educators by high school educators. It shares best practices for supporting and engaging students through business education. This month’s blog, written by Gerri Kimble, a business teacher at Hoover High School in Alabama and one of the newest members of the Wharton Global Youth Educator Advisory Board, discusses the value of providing diverse opportunities for high school students to expose them to the real world of business and finance.
When I think back to my childhood, I distinctly remember the times I traveled. I didn’t grow up with much, so most of my travel as a teenager was through school or community programs. Those opportunities challenged me to grow as a student and individual. So it is no surprise that, as an educator today, I value the same opportunities for my own students.
Today I’m one of four passionate Business & Entrepreneurship Academy teachers at the largest high school in my state. The four of us come from different backgrounds and experiences, but we share a love for providing students with opportunities. Today I’ll discuss five travel/trip opportunities and how they have helped our students grow throughout the years.
While this may not seem like much, college visits provide students with a foundation for choosing their postsecondary path. Some are undecided and some are simply unaware. What is special about our campus visits is that we usually visit the school’s college of business specifically. This shows our Business Academy students a connection to what we have taught them over the years and a peek at what that looks like in the postsecondary setting.
We have taken students to different types of colleges over the years — including the local university, a large state university, a historically black college, a small private university, and a community college. We know that not every postsecondary option is for every student, so we have tried to offer a variety of experiences.
Out-of-State Educational Tours
One of the highlights of our Business Academy is the opportunity for our students to visit New York City. It’s a perfect city to explore finance and marketing, the two program areas taught in our Business Academy. I remember when I was hired at my school years ago (as a first-year teacher), I was impressed with the lengths the teachers in the program went to provide students with this incredible connection to the business world. Today, years later, the NYC trip is still a highlight trip for our students.
Small and/or local businesses love sharing their passion with eager high school students. Many are willing to host a group of interested students in their facilities and share the stories of their journey. Just a few weeks ago, we took a group of students to Innovation Depot, a local business incubator. Trips like these give students the opportunity to learn from and connect with local entrepreneurs, which may result in internship and mentorship opportunities.
Large Finance and Marketing Organizations
Because our program focuses on the finance and marketing sides of business, we are sure to plan trip opportunities that are specifically geared toward these areas. To see marketing in action, for example, we have visited various sports facilities. We’ve toured NFL, NBA, and smaller league facilities over the years. On the finance side, we’ve visited Federal Reserve Banks and the New York Stock Exchange. We also build and maintain relationships with local marketing and finance professionals. This exposes students who are not necessarily interested in entrepreneurship to cool careers in marketing and finance.
Student Leadership Conferences and Competitions
This one is a personal favorite of mine and is the most popular among our students. Leadership conferences and business-student competitions are unique in ways that they connect all of the previous things I’ve mentioned: at one event, students are able to connect with colleges from around the country, travel to new places, meet business leaders from all over, and visit cool organizations. Our Business Academy takes students to DECA’s International Career Development Conference, for example, where they are able to experience all of this while networking with students from all over the world. Their favorite part is competing — putting to use all the marketing and finance they spent the entire school year learning. They absolutely love it. As teachers, we find great joy in watching our students grow beyond the classroom.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
We also try to consider the following to meet the needs of our students:
- Offer a variety of experiences (travel distance, transportation type, costs, etc.) This allows students who have challenges (scheduling conflicts, financial hardships, anxiety issues, etc.) to choose the type of trip that works best for them. Students should be able to experience opportunities like these no matter their circumstances.
- Fundraising is important. Trips can be costly and some families cannot afford to cover the full costs. Therefore, we aim to raise as much as possible each school year. We hold one big fundraiser every fall and operate the school store during the year. We are also budget conscious with our federal funding. We use these various sources to alleviate our families’ out-of-pocket costs.
- Diversity of staff helps. Some families find comfort in knowing that someone who looks like and/or identifies with their child will be traveling with them long distances. Our Business Academy faculty is moderately diverse (three different races in our four-person team, for example). What we lack in diversity, we try to make up with chaperones. We believe it helps students and their families feel comfortable.
While every program is different and these trips and tips might not work for all, I am happy to further discuss any of this with any Wharton Global Youth Program teacher. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn.