Summer camps are almost all business

Published July 27, 2008 12:00 am
Two events mix fun, competition in college setting
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Forgoing the traditional summer pastimes of lazy pool days and backyard twilights, hundreds of Utah high school students have elected to spend their vacations talking money.

"I want to own my own business someday, and I'm pretty interested in marketing," said Jared Skillicorn, a spiky-haired senior at Woods Cross High School. "One of my teachers told me about this camp."

Skillicorn was one of 165 high school juniors and seniors who gathered at Utah State University from July 13-19 for the 28th annual Utah Business Week, a summer program meant to connect ambitious, business-minded students with local experts and professionals.

And 85 miles south, during the same week, Westminster College hosted 14 high school students from as far away as Texas and Florida for its sixth Money 101 summer program, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase. The camp promises to teach basic money management principles in a hands-on, "college experience" environment, and is another example of a trend among high school students using their summer break to beef up academic experience.

"The reason I picked Money 101 was because of the price and the two hours of college credit," said Tyson Adams, a junior. "And I don't think any camp could have done what it did better."

In many ways, Utah Business Week and Money 101 are strikingly different programs. Students at the large Utah Business Week camp are divided into "companies" of 10-12 students each to keep the experience personal, well-supervised and deeply competitive, said Peggy Larsen, Utah Business Week chairwoman and senior vice president of marketing at the Utah Workers Compensation Fund.

Money 101's relatively small class, on the other hand, generally moves as a whole, and unity is strongly stressed.

Even the gender ratios contrast. Utah Business Week's girls outnumber boys nearly 2-to-1, but of Money 101's 14 students, 12 were boys.

Still, despite the differences, both programs are based on a similar premise: that learning business can be fun.

"It's amazing here," said Katie Walkingshaw, a former Utah Business Week student who returned this summer as an intern and is looking into a career in marketing. "I didn't even come with any friends when I did it, but I still loved it."

And to keep antsy teenagers focused, both programs rely heavily on the same thing: competition.

"This is very competitive," said Larsen, grinning.

Contests between "companies" managed by students dominate the week at her camp, and range from from logo development to volleyball tournaments. A longtime favorite among students, according to Larsen, is the "One Person's Junk is Another Person's Product" night, in which students build a product from garbage, then market it to a panel of judges. The winner this year was a "time machine" built from a broken clock.

"There is definitely a rivalry, but everyone is nice to each other," said Danny Evans, a senior at Woods Cross High School.

At Money 101, students participated in a competition modeled on the television show "The Amazing Race," according to camp director Tammie Howarth. To win, groups of three were asked to apply knowledge acquired throughout the week to solve clues hidden throughout Westminster's Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business.

"They don't want to be sitting in a classroom," said Howarth. "Games are great to get them moving and thinking."

And in terms of finances, the students who come to these camps are certainly ready to play.

"I'm so eager to get started with investing," said Adams, a participant in Money 101. "No matter what I'm doing later on, I'm going to use what I learned there."


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