In its 40th year, Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week provides entrepreneurial summer camp experiences to rising high school juniors and seniors throughout the commonwealth.
About 20 students from Palisades, Pennridge and Quakertown Community school districts said PFEW camp was a life-changing experience helping them to discover their strengths – and weaknesses – as well as better understand how to run a business.
“I learned that finance isn’t my thing, but I really like marketing,” said Nick Coldwell, a Palisades junior from Springfield Township.
One-week camps are held during June, July and August at Lycoming College and Pennsylvania College of Technology, both in Williamsport.
An avid supporter of PFEW Tara King, executive director of Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce, said, “It takes many villages to raise the next generation,” of business leaders.”
UBCC provides scholarships for Upper Bucks County students to attend intensive, immersion camp. Proceeds from its popular annual Foodie event, held this year on Oct. 11 at Sands Chrysler, Jeep Dodge Ram in Quakertown, go toward funding scholarships.
“I am so very grateful for Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce support,” Coldwell said.
During camp students are assigned to teams and become officers of a fictional, underperforming publically held manufacturing company – making product ranging from footwear to jewelry.
They elect a CEO, vice presidents and other c-suite directors, responsible for their company’s vision and performance.
Through the team experience students learn to work with others they’ve just met toward a common goal as well as discovering their own strengths and talents.
These tasks are completed within the first 24 hours of arriving.
In the days ahead they create a product based upon their industry assignment, and a complete promotional campaign including a financial plan, marketing for print, radio, online and television and must present three “years” worth of data at a shareholders meeting before a judging panel.
When the program began at Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 1979, about 100 students attended.
“This year, 2019 students graduated from PFEW camp programs,” said Scott Lee, vice president of marketing and development of the Foundation for Free Enterprise Education, which oversees PFEW.
Emma Foster, 17, of Sellersville is a Pennridge High School junior. She said PFEW was probably one of the best weeks of her life.
As vice president of marketing for her team (footwear), Foster said a bonding evening of board games and playing cards jump started a group that “hadn’t quite jelled. After that, things took off,” Foster said.
Foster’s post high school graduation plans aim high.
“The speakers were passionate and motivating. I want to become president of the United States and after writing that goal down, I feel more motivated to achieve it. The lessons I learned I’ll use in my entire life,” Foster said.
Quakertown Junior Sam Barndt of Richland Township said the speakers and mentors were top-notch, and “galvanized what I want to do in my life.”
“You’re learning about the free enterprise system from the top down,” Barndt said.