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Sharing a passion for business

Sharing a Passion for Business

Honors Program mentors high schoolers on entrepreneurship

Sean Kerrigan

An Honors Program partnership with Junior Achievement is helping high school students in underserved communities learn what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.

The daylong event connected 32 honors students with high schoolers from seven high schools in Massachusetts and Connecticut, walking them through brainstorming, problem solving and rapid business planning techniques. This year’s event was a continuation of a partnership that started last year and the first held virtually. Organizers hope to continue and possibly expand the relationship.

We were excited to take part in this event and to see it succeed,” says Student Honors Council President Alyssa Gaeta ’23. “It was fun to be a part of.”

The first session introduced the high school students to the tools they’d be using and basic concepts of design thinking. From there, teams from each school came up with concepts to pitch to the jury. Four finalists were chosen to move on in the competition, and a team from Glastonbury (Conn.) High School took top prize.

“We talked about general brainstorming and what it’s like to be empathetic, how to work with different ideas,” says Gaeta. “It was a very broad topic, which allowed the students to be creative. It was fun to see the ideas.”

Students also heard from Bentley guest speakers who specialized in entrepreneurship and who met with students throughout the day, including Lucius Firmin ’23, a socially conscious fashion designer who recently launched his own brand of clothing.

“He showed them how you can take an idea and run with it,” Gaeta says. “That was something we wanted to convey to students.”

Being able to teach them and introduce them to business, to introduce them to Bentley, definitely made me feel good. It made me feel like I was making an impact, opening doors and opportunities for them, and showing them that business is a potential career option.
Alyssa Gaeta ’23

Gaeta, who grew up in Georgetown, Mass., says she had access to business programs in high school that opened doors for her, so sharing her experience with kids who might not otherwise get that opportunity was important.

“Being able to teach them and introduce them to business, to introduce them to Bentley, definitely made me feel good,” she says. “It made me feel like I was making an impact, opening doors and opportunities for them and showing them that business is a potential career option.”

And, as a Management major, it also gave her a chance to try out what she’s learned in the classroom in a more practical, hands-on setting.

“This is extremely important going forward in my career,” she says. “I’m going to have to be able to motivate people, to get them to come up with good ideas and feel welcome in different scenarios.

“Participating and volunteering in events like this helps us instill knowledge in other people and show them what we’re learning in the classroom and how we can apply it to everyday life. But it’s also an opportunity for us to learn. I got to see some really creative ideas and learned how to see outside the box and communicate better. It gave me a new perspective.”

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Elizabeth Veilleux ’23, a Data Analytics major from Wethersfield, Conn., says the event allowed her to go beyond the math and coding she normally focuses on.

“It was interesting to be able to hone into my creative side and to hear more about design techniques,” she says. 

Civic engagement is a core component of Bentley’s Honors Program, making events like this crucial to students’ honors experience.

“Service is really important to us as well as lifelong learning,” says Michelle Yestrepsky, Honors Program manager. “So even if the students didn’t make it to the winning team, hopefully they’ll be able to take the skills they have learned and either pursue a passion for business or just generally be more creative.”

Both Veilleux and Gaeta say that working with the high school students provided benefits on both sides of the partnership.

“It’s cool that we got to mentor these students,” says Veilleux. “As a high schooler, it gives you a different perspective, where you’ve got a person who’s not that much older than you, who’s not a teacher.

“The good thing about this event is that it gave them an idea of what they could do, what creative ideas they could come up with,” she adds. “So it wasn’t just about a prize, but about learning a lot along the way.”