Local High School Students Collaborate on Real-World Business Solutions

Seven teams comprised of high school students from throughout Richmond stood before a roomful of executives, community leaders and others this morning and shared with poise and enthusiasm solutions for complex issues that could change how some local organizations serve their audiences. The 28 rising high school seniors were participants in the 41st Annual Cochrane Summer Economic Institute (CSEI), a four-week immersion program administered by Collegiate School and funded by the Powell Economic Education Foundation, with contributions from corporate sponsors and private donors.
CSEI teaches participating students about the economy and entrepreneurship and gives them access to local professionals who welcome their ideas.

Today’s culminating event was hosted at Dominion Payroll in Richmond’s thriving Scott’s Addition neighborhood — a fitting location as the students discussed opportunities that could enhance the services provided by these well-regarded organizations and businesses in the metro region: ChildSavers, Dominion Energy, EAB, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Impact Makers, Richmond Flying Squirrels and Startup Virginia.

“This experience was extremely rewarding,” said Hunter Carlton, a student at the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, who served on a four-student team that sought ways to make VMFA’s permanent collection more interactive for visitors. “This has given us insight into how businesses and think tanks work behind the scenes. We learned to work in a collaborative environment, which will be a useful skill throughout our lives.”

Hunter and his three teammates (students from Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, Church Hill Academy and Collegiate) shared this morning that VMFA leaders are considering implementing the QR codes the team recommended to help museum visitors better utilize existing digital resources, such as an online map and artist talks currently featured on the museum website.

Other students participating this year represented Charles City High School, Henrico High School, Highland Springs High School, Kent School, Mills E. Godwin High School, St. Catherine’s School, The Steward School and Trinity Episcopal High School.

All of the student teams used the design thinking process to conduct research and listen to the needs and feedback offered by their respective organizations and from the constituents of each entity.

While the VMFA team came up with the idea to use QR codes, the Richmond Flying Squirrels student team offered suggestions to help the baseball team strengthen its year-round relationship with sponsors and the Richmond community.

The Dominion Energy team created a standardized intake process and recommended an online application for Dominon’s EnergyShare program, which provides assistance to customers facing financial challenges.

The ChildSavers team conducted demographic research that the nonprofit can use to keep donors informed and engaged and assessed the nonprofit’s credentialing program.

The Startup Virginia team created a comprehensive website to help local entrepreneurs easily locate helpful resources, such as co-working spaces, funding and more. (The students anticipate that some reiteration of the online guide will be implemented by Startup Virginia and other entrepreneurial supporters in the near future.)

The Impact Makers team helped this B-corp IT and technology consulting firm revamp its internship program to increase the program’s appeal among college students while the EAB student team sought to shore up both internal and external interest in the company as a viable and rewarding workplace.

CSEI students said most rewarding aspects of the program included: “Learning that I was making a real difference with real-world problems;” “learning how to work independently” and “achieving research breakthroughs that were useful.”

Trina Clemans, Director of the Cochrane Summer Economics Institute, who is also Collegiate’s Director of Economic and Entrepreneurship Education, applauded the students’ CSEI successes and also shared details about a pilot project in which they participated: the City Indicator Challenge. For this endeavor, the 28 students met with local business professionals, community leaders and an urban planner who helped them assess the future of seven cities — including Richmond — and what millennials (and younger individuals) will increasingly look for in the places they want to call home. The teams of students devised ideas for how to best plan for future growth in their assigned city, relative to each city’s regional priorities.

The CSEI students, who each received a $500 stipend, also nominated three of their peers to receive scholarships from the Association for Corporate Growth - Richmond: Hunter Carlton from Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, Lady Corral from Mills E. Godwin High School and Sally Ennis from Collegiate School.

For more information on CSEI, including application details for the 2019 program, visit powelledfoundation.org.
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