USF pairs high-school, MBA students for day of classroom studyJanuary 14th, 2009
By Michael Vick
The University of San Francisco hosted more than 50 students from San Leandro High School and Oakland’s Lighthouse Community Charter School for the first “MBA for a Day” program Nov. 18 and 20. The program, sponsored by the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, paired high school students with USF’s MBA students for a day of classroom study, a tour of campus and an introduction to college life.
The NFTE program took place with a backdrop of plummeting stock prices in the wake of the financial meltdown. Students who participated, ranging in age from 14 to 17, seemed upbeat and willing to take on a career in business in spite of, and in some cases because of, the worrying financial situation.
Siobhan Cohee, a San Leandro High School senior, said the economic turmoil made her even more determined to succeed in business. She hopes an ethical business model would help her avoid the problems plaguing Wall Street.
”The problems don’t scare me,” said Cohee, 17. “All the problems make me want to get into business more.”
Cohee said the program was a good opportunity to see what is in store for her when she goes to college.
”I didn’t have too many expectations, but it exceeded expectations,” Cohee said. “It made me feel excited and eased some fears about college.”
Fellow San Leandro High School senior Virginia Luu also found the program to be a worthwhile foretaste of higher education.
”I talked to students who actually helped me see what college life is like, and got to meet some MBAs,” said Luu, 17.
Luu echoed Cohee’s outlook on the economic downturn. “It’s a good opportunity for new businesses,” she said. “The next generation needs to take over with new technology and new ideas.”
Among the university students involved in shepherding the MBAs-to-be was Bret Sweet. A 31-year-old former teacher and second-year MBA student at USF, Sweet said young people like Cohee and Luu are an inspiration.
”I’m always impressed with the kids,” Sweet said. “Over five years of teaching, my greatest heroes and inspirations were high school students. I wish I were as brave as them when I was their age.”
Sweet said as a teenager in Oakland he had been involved in “both markets,” criminal endeavors and above-the-board entrepreneurship, and was “desperately trying to transfer” from the former to the latter.
”For an African-American, the people to look at were Kobe Bryant and Sean Combs,” Sweet said. “I wanted to be like Steve Jobs. There were not a lot of role models for that in Oakland.”
A teacher working with NFTE set Sweet on a course to achieve his dreams, and since then, he has looked to be that type of influence in the lives of other young people. Sweet said beyond helping the students, “MBA for a Day” will also help the university see the value of reaching students as early as possible.
”I want to expose students to the campus but also expose the campus to the students,” Sweet said. “Some of these 14-year-olds have a better understanding of the economy than outgoing MBAs.”