Connecting business and education

High school students participating in this summer’s Washington Business Week will be running their very own business.

Although only a simulation, the results mirror real life as they prepare students for their future. Not only do students run a mock business during the week, but they also examine ethical case studies, work with high-profile professionals and are provided the opportunity to preview life on a college campus.

“It’s so amazing what kids will do, they will step out and step up,” said Stephen Hyer, executive director of the non-profit Foundation for Private Enterprise Education which manages the program.

The summer program, started in 1976, is open to all students of high school age including private school students and those homeschooled. It is hosted at the student’s choice of four Washington universities — Gonzaga University in Spokane, June 18-24; Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, June 25-July 1; Central Washington University in Ellensburg, July 23-29; and Western Washington University in Bellingham, August 6-12.

Cost per student to attend the program is $295 which covers a full week’s stay in a college dorm, all meals, program materials, recreation and entertainment and a T-shirt. Financial assistance is available for those who need it.

At the beginning of Washington Business Week students are divided into groups of 10 and dubbed “companies.” The object will be to run a simulated wholesale DVD player company.

“They have to start as a company, operating the business through eight ‘quarters,’” Hyer said. “They learn balance sheets and income statements. They learn to work as a team.”

Toward the end of the week the students have a chance to make a mock product which they will debut at the “trade show.”

“The judges at the trade show invest ‘money’ in their company, by investing they want to know about the company,” Hyer said. “This gets the kids talking about what they learned. We keep it low tech. We want to see what they can do, not what PowerPoint can do. It’s a real high-energy event.”

The week, however, is not all work and no play. There are dances, a talent show, a volleyball match, swimming and movies. Students also will have a chance to hang out on the college campus.

Hyer is hoping more students from Kitsap County will sign up for Washington Business Week.

“This last year we had a lower number of kids from Kitsap County,” he said.

Jeanelle Kaio, now a junior at Olympic High School, was one of the Kitsap-area students who attended last year’s program.

“It was different from what I expected,” she said. “I thought it was going to be nothing but classes, but it wasn’t, it was fun. Your perspective is different when you leave from when you first arrive.”

Because everyone is divided into groups, Kaio didn’t know anyone in her group at the beginning, but quickly made friends.

“When you start out you don’t know anyone, but by the end you’ve become close,” she added. “Everyone gets along, it was fun.”

She found that even those students who didn’t have a mindset on a future career in business found it to be worthwhile.

“There’s a lot of different speakers, it motivates you not only if you’re going to go into business, but any career path you choose,” she said. “I think (students) should try it if they have a chance. They won’t regret it.”

For more information on Washington Business Week visit Registration forms are available from the Web site or by calling the Washington Business Week office at (253) 815-6985 or toll-free at 1-800-686-6642. Those interested also can send an e-mail to

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