Carolina Journal News Reports
RALEIGH — Time is running short, but a few openings remain for the 2012 Free Enterprise Leadership Challenge, a summer program for high school students hosted by the Jesse Helms Center Foundation at Wingate University.
FELC is a five-day summer program open to high school students who will be entering the 10th, 11th, or 12th grades. FELC seeks to teach students about free enterprise by fostering their understanding of entrepreneurship, the differences between capitalism and socialism, free market economics, personal responsibility, the opportunities that the free enterprise system has to offer, philanthropy, and ethical behavior in business.
During each of the summer sessions, students enter a competition where they work in small groups to create a company. Throughout the week they market and advertise their product, and form a business plan — keeping accounting records and even paying taxes.
Dates and locations of the 2012 summer sessions:
• Session 1: June 17-21; Wingate (Wingate University)
• Session 2: June 24-28; Cedar Hill, Texas (Northwood University)
• Session 3: July 15-19; Buies Creek (Campbell University)
• Session 4: July 22-26; West Palm Beach, Fla. (Northwood University)
Session 1 is full. There are about 20 spaces available at sessions 2 and 4, and about 30 spaces left at session 3. Students may apply online at http://www.felcexperience.org/.
On acceptance, the registration fee is $100, and that fee includes meals, on-campus housing, conference materials, a t-shirt, and program costs. The costs of the program are underwritten by donors. Students are responsible for transportation.
The student participants “learn by doing,” says John Dodd, president of the Helms Center Foundation. The students “borrow money from a bank, and at the end of the week they tally up their profits,” he says. The group with the highest profit and the end of the week wins the competition. “All the companies in the program have always made a profit,” Dodd says. “They are set up so that they learn the profit motive.”
Lindsay Hollandsworth, the programs and communications manager at the foundation, offered a few examples of businesses created in previous years: “Entertainment companies” [Participants] might run a movie in the evenings that students can attend. Students will host soccer or flag football games. Art companies: tie-dye t-shirts, [make] bumper stickers. Students sometimes sell concession items, snacks and sodas.”
Dodd says the students market their products primarily to each other. At the end of the week, they have the option of splitting profits between their group members (and paying a 30 percent tax), or donating their earnings to charities. The students also have an option to invest their earnings in Kiva.org, a microfinance website that invests in microenterprises around the world.
Dodd says his “learn-by-doing” model is a “firsthand learning model that I have found to always be the most effective.” Other activities scheduled throughout the week include speeches, debate and essay contests; lessons on marketing, production, business costs, profits, and taxes; and the importance of corporate philanthropy.
“We have trained them in the founding principles of our country. They get a copy of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence when they arrive,” says Dodd. For a more detailed description of a typical day of FELC, visit http://www.jessehelmscenter.org/programs/felc.asp.
The program “started in 1995, and now there are over 6,300 graduates from the program,” Dodd says. “We’ve really expanded, going to Texas and Florida this year besides the sessions in North Carolina. We had [gone to] Texas last year as well. We’ve also worked with the [U.S.] State Department to do this in other countries, too.”
Hollandsworth says this year the program has expanded from three sessions to four. “This means that we have an additional 65 to 75 students this year,” she says.
“Many graduates go on to become activists,” Dodd says. “One was president of Young Republicans at UNC, and another graduate has already created and sold his own business.” Dodd says it is important to teach Americans the importance of free enterprise while they are young, and the high school years are a good age to do it.
For more information, contact the FELC program coordinator at (704) 233-1776, extension 8; or email Hollandsworth at Lindsay@JesseHelmsCenter.org.
Signè Thomas is an editorial intern at Carolina Journal.