Local Companies Bring Business Learning to Kotzebue Students
ABW participant Brian Stalker of Kotzebue provides financial leadership to his team.
Since 2009, hundreds of Alaska high school students have learned how to run a company at Alaska Business Week (ABW) summer camps. This April, the Kotzebue community helped ABW kick off a tenth year of operations when students walked through the doors of the UA Chukchi campus.
ABW is a weeklong camp where high school students learn how to run a business profitably and ethically. There are a number of activities and lectures throughout the week that teach concepts like leadership and teamwork, grit and responsibility. However, the core of the business week camp is a management competition where student groups compete in an intense business simulation.
Students often begin the ABW program with limited functional knowledge of how a company works. In five days and two-years of simulated business they learn how and why successful companies do what they do.
Early afternoon on the final day of camp, students delivered financial presentations to members of the local business community. They demonstrated a new understanding of concepts that many adults struggle with; concepts like profit, asset management, depreciation, and debt. Students now recognize that sales, production, and administration are all necessary components of success. They are comfortable with common financial reports like Profit and Loss, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow statements. The realize the importance of bringing their personal ethics into their professional lives and the value of corporate citizenship. And – importantly – they showed that they had a ton of fun learning these valuable life skills.
“We were given a company that we have owned for two years,” said Virgina, a Magnet School student from Chevak. “My part of the company was being the CFO. I’ve learned about other positions, and they’re all working as a team. It sort of changed my thoughts of the future.”
Volunteer mentors from the host community guide ABW students to success. Kotzebue-area professionals committed a week of their time to tutor camp participants. These talented mentors – and their generous employers – are champions for entrepreneurship learning in Alaska and very deserving of our appreciation. Thank you to Ann Howarth of OTZ Telephone Cooperative, Fred Smith of Wolf Creek Sales & Services, and both Nina Lie and Kristina McCall (Anchorage) of NANA.
ABW camps are only possible with support from local business partners. The program is entirely funded by private sector companies that are passionate about providing access to business learning, a subject that can be hard to find in traditional education. This program is Alaska companies educating future business leaders face-to-face in the most grassroots way imaginable. In Kotzebue, contributions from regional employers like NANA Regional, Akima, and Northwest Arctic Borough created this opportunity, and many more contribute to statewide operations.
ABW participants are very aware of the companies that make their camp experience possible. In a personal note to her sponsors, Sierra from Kotzebue wrote, “This week was fun. We had laughter, smiles, and a lot of progress. ABW was worth a lot of my time. I’d like you to continue sponsoring the program.”
Volunteers and sponsors provide young people with the skills and confidence needed to realize professional aspirations, students like Kate McWilliams who attended ABW in 2014. Kate signed up to learn the skills necessary to pursue a career in fashion in her hometown of Bethel. Kate’s strategy to realize her passion was to open a consignment clothing store. She operated the shop through high school and today, while attending college in Oregon, Kate employs her neighbors to operate the store in her absence.
The 2019 Kotzebue Business Week camp is the first of what will be an annual program in the region. This year, four students from Ambler, Chevak and Noorvik participated in the Kotzebue-based camp. With proper planning and growing excitement about the opportunity, ABW expects to include an increasing number of visiting students.
There are two remaining ABW camps scheduled for the 2019 summer seasons. An Anchorage camp runs from July 8-12 at Romig Middle School. The MatSu program will be hosted at Colony High School and runs from July 22-26. More information and registration opportunities are available online at alaskabusinessweek.com or by calling (907) 278-2744.
An ABW summer camp participant in Kotzebue learns how to tie a tie.
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