From the first day of the 2017 Governor’s School of Entrepreneurship at West Virginia University, high school students from different areas of the state worked with economics experts from the University and West Virginia to transform their passions and ideas into reality.
During the 21-day residential program (July 5-25) GSE students honed their entrepreneurial mindsets through lectures and presentations, hands-on workshops, competitions, travel and adventure.
“WVU was very well situated to be the site for GSE because of the ecosystem of the services and the focus on curriculum that we have at the University,” said Mindy Walls, assistant vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation at WVU. “We have a number of resources, from our IDEA Faculty Fellows to our various centers including the LaunchLab, the Health Sciences Innovation Center, the Media Innovation Center, the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and all of those pieces play a part in the Governor’s School. So, we felt like WVU had really a wealth of resources that we were able to expose to the high school students.”
The young entrepreneurs were divided into eight teams and placed into one of four industries – healthcare, technology, creative economics, or hospitality and tourism. They put their pioneering minds together for multiple activities, such as a “Trash to Treasure” exercise where they were tasked with taking recyclable trash and creating a game that could be used by children in third world countries.
“The students learned that they don’t have to stay in a defined box and can think up anything to be successful. Along with knowing that they are not out there on their own. They can be an individual but work in a team to create a cooperative mission that can be successful for years to come,” said Julia Bolt, dean of the 2017 GSE and assistant director of the BrickStreet Center, which is housed in the WVU College of Business and Economics.
On top of all the innovative skills built at GSE, students also found a renewed sense of passion for the Mountain State, learned a lot about themselves, discovered new career paths and made strong bonds to last a lifetime.
“The common statement we heard from the students from the very beginning was, ‘I never knew there was someone else out there like me.’ We had a number of students who were not comfortable in the beginning talking in public, but by the end we could not get them to stop talking,” Bolt said. “The students were not only able to grow as entrepreneurs, but also as professionals and people. Their idea of being an entrepreneur changed because they realized how much harder it is to be successful and that you can’t do it without the help and support of others.”
Each team’s major task was to develop, pitch and actually launch a new business venture. They took every avenue to launch their enterprise, learning about research, trademarking, funding, branding and more. After weeks of brainstorming and working with business coaches, it was finally time to pitch their ideas to a funding panel and to show off their businesses at the GSE Showcase, which took place at the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place on July 22.
Polarized Privacy tackled visual privacy when it comes to electronic devices.
“To solve that, we decided to use polarized films, which is found on LCD monitors and what it basically does is it filters the color coming from the LCD monitor and turns it into an image,” said Sandrik Tabidze, Polarized Privacy team member and sophomore at Musselman High School in Inwood. “We decided to implement that into glasses so that it’s more private for that user and nobody around them can see what they’re doing and what they’re typing or the information that they’re sharing.”
Some of the participants hope to take those ideas to the implementation stage.
GSE also has a direct correlation to WVU and its business school’s commitment to economic development.
“With the troubles that our state is having economically, I really believe that entrepreneurship and innovation are the major keys to diversifying our state’s economy and turning the economic situation around. And this is not something that can be done quickly. It is a generational approach,” Walls said. “It only makes sense to me to expose students as soon as possible to the options and opportunities in entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial mindset.”
As GSE drew to a close, the students, parents, staff, faculty and more celebrated their time together with closing ceremonies and a carnival at the Erickson Alumni Center.
“GSE is a great program and when I get home, I’m definitely going to share this with people at my school and around my community because I want others to have this experience, too,” said Brettina Jeffers, a GSE participant and junior at Spring Valley High School in Huntington.
Dowler, WVU College of Business and Economics
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