SAMOHI Champs Earn Berths to Shanghai
By Ann K. Williams
June 22 -- The world just got a lot smaller for nine Santa Monica High School students who won the right to represent their country in Shanghai, China this summer.
Going to Manhattan last May was exciting enough for the business students, and so was their first-place victory in the national Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) competition for the successful café and store they run on the high school campus.
But despite the long hours and hard work that helped their enterprises gross more than $70,000 last year, the fledgling entrepreneurs need the community’s help in their bid to go global.
The students need to raise $33,000 to compete as national champions in August against their international peers from countries as far afield as South Africa, the Philippines and Tajikistan as part of a program designed to foster ethical and socially responsible entrepreneurship on a global level.
“Every day that we wait, the price (of tickets to China) goes up and up,” said Anita Kemp, one of the instructors for Project Entrepreneurial Concepts Hands On (Project ECHO).
Jasmine Coker, who, along with her teammates, represents 90 Project ECHO students at SAMOHI, emphasized she’s not just in it for herself.
“We’re representing our country and our state,” Coker said. “If we get first place in the world, it’s for everyone.”
SAMOHI Principal Ilene Straus couldn’t agree more.
“I am incredibly proud of these students,” Straus said. “They represent us well. It really shows us what a strong connection between businesses and the schools can do.”
Local businesses, organizations and individuals like the Doubletree Hotel, Santa Monica franchises of McDonalds and Pizza Hut, the American Red Cross and local businessman Dave Heller support and mentor the students, Kemp said.
And tutors from UCLA, Cal State Dominguez Hills and Santa Monica College pitch in to fine tune the teens’ business plans and help train workers at the real-time ventures the teens run, added senior Anthony Campbell .
The teens thrive on the atmosphere of mutual support.
“We get along. We’re like a mini-family,” senior Carlton Fortenberry said. “If somebody’s struggling, they don’t feel embarrassed to ask for help.”
And their teamwork pays off.
In the last eight years, student management has increased revenues by 150 percent at the Vike’s Café and Vike’s Inn, where youngsters can get lunch, snacks and hip supplies picked out by buyers their own age.
Just last April, sales went up five percent, Coker said enthusiastically, and the enterprises bring in from $450 to $500 a day, or more than $70,000 a year.
But the students aren’t resting on their laurels.
Next year, they plan to open a new healthy soup and sandwich eatery with a tropical theme at the high school.
“Vic’s” will feature music videos and live performances showcasing student talent, and at the same time bring student nutrition up to recently revised federal standards, Kemp said.
“Vic’s” was the prize winning entry at the national competition in New York.
Along the road to success, the young men and women have learned invaluable lessons about themselves.
“It takes a lot to be a professional successful person in the world,” Coker said. “I can accomplish anything I want if I set my mind to it.”
Campbell felt the same way. “We’re a great school and we’re very bright children,” he said.
Campbell plans to use the lessons he’s learned in Project ECHO when he opens his own pediatric practice one day.
Hard work and persistence were key themes.
“We’re working really hard to represent our country to the world,” added Fortenberry.
Project ECHO students worked through spring break, on weekends and often stayed on campus until six or seven in the evening to keep their lucrative enterprises running smoothly, Fortenberry said.
“I guess the rest of the world sees the U.S. as lazy,” Coker said. “We’re actually hard working students. We’re dedicated.”
It’s a good thing they are, because now the team has to come up with $33,000 to pay for nine students and two teachers to go to Shanghai, where they’ll compete with teens from nine other countries in August.
Already, Volvo of Santa Monica and GotVMail have pitched in and the SAGE team from Pennsylvania was so impressed by SAMOHI’s performance in New York, they chipped in their $500 winnings.
Project ECHO’s first annual “Come meet and play Cashflow 101 With Our Future” night will also raise funds for the trip to China. The game described as “monopoly on steroids” will be held at the SAMOHI cafeteria on Monday, June 26 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The team will be present, and there will be refreshments and prizes.
$100 buys a seat in the game, or sponsors a student to play. $1000 buys a table, and $2500 sponsors one student’s trip to China. For more details, you can reach the director, Dion M. Ramos, at 310 434-2701 or at email@example.com
Or you can donate with a check payable to the Los Angeles County Education
Foundation, sent to Rebel Harrison, Santa Monica High School ROP, 601
Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica 90405. Her telephone number is 310 395-3204
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