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Published: Saturday, 4/5/2008

Young CEOs get career jump-start

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ronald Thompson, ex-CEO of Midwest Stamping and Manufacturing, fixes Kemon Thorton's tie. Alontay Gould watches. Ronald Thompson, ex-CEO of Midwest Stamping and Manufacturing, fixes Kemon Thorton's tie. Alontay Gould watches.
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The auditorium at Lincoln Academy for Boys was transformed yesterday into a board room.

As the boys walked in wearing shirts and ties and carrying their briefcases, they were no longer simply fourth and fifth graders. They were CEOs, treasurers, and salesmen.

"They take the learning and the enrichment from the classroom, and they apply it here in the board room," Principal Teresa Quinn said. "We need to take our boys to the next level. They can be anything they want to be."

During their fifth meeting with motivational speaker Jonathan Edison of Detroit about 60 boys in the Young CEOs program got down to business.

Divided into their six companies, the boys made lists of products to sell and at what prices. They also designed their businesses' logos. Candy and school supplies dominate the offerings that the boys will sell May 7.

Toriano Wright, an 11-year-old fifth grader, had a specific business plan. Along with bookbags, markers, pencils, and other school supplies, his firm will sell Starburst, Twix, and other favorite candies. "We get to learn how to handle a business and boss people around," Toriano, the CEO of Lincoln Candy and School Supplies, said with a laugh.

Unique Hicks convers with his business associates about their products during the Young CEO meeting. Unique Hicks convers with his business associates about their products during the Young CEO meeting.
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In just a couple months, the boys have identified leaders in their class, divided into companies in a sports draft-type system, and identified specific tasks for each person.

Jay Lawrence, the media contact for Bakery Inc., said he's learning how to know everything about his company and be able to tell people about it.

In a maroon shirt and perfectly matching tie yesterday, Jay, also 11 and in fifth grade, said he likes dressing and acting the part. "It makes you feel like you should be at Owens Corning and hanging with the big boys," he said.

That's part of how the program encourages leadership and teamwork because the boys are not just pretending to run a business while someone stands over them telling them what to do, said Mr. Edison, CEO of Edison Speaks International. It's all left up to the boys, encouraging creativity, organization, critical thinking, and self discipline.

At Lincoln Academy, he's seen the boys step up with votes for majority-rules business plans and compromises to make everyone happy.

"Now you have 10 and 11- year-olds beginning new plans for their lives," he said. "And if you don't give them images and thought processes, they'll never begin to look down that road."

All the boys yesterday said they like learning the ins and outs of the business world, something many don't get to do until after high school.

"I think it's great because itgives us a chance to learn at this age something new. At first I didn't even know what a CEO was," said Jordan Braden, 11, a fifth grader. "Now I want to be a CEO, a businessman."

Jordan is the CEO of National Leaders, which plans to sell different sizes of popcorn balls and lemonade and candy, such as 10 packs of suckers. Competition should be steep when the marketplace opens at 9:30 a.m. May 7.

Parents, community leaders, and other students in the school will be welcomed to the auditorium-turned-marketplace for two hours to buy the products, which Mr. Edison plans to provide. With most of them selling candy and school supplies, and one specializing in bathroom products, there should be a lot of healthy competition to get the most play money.

Jeramey Frelin, 11 and a fifth grader whose business is aptly named Jeramey Inc., said he's ready with the trick to bring people to his company's booth for their candy, school supplies, and water - "a flashy sign and know everybody's name."

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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