Students aspire to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants and so on, but for three Wichita Northwest High School students, entrepreneur is now at the top of their list.
Of course, they all want to attend college, but as seniors, their eyes were opened to the opportunity for an aspiring entrepreneur to thrive in Wichita.
For Noah Birchfield, Nathan George and Riley Johnson, being an entrepreneur was the furthest thing from their minds as they began their final year at Northwest.
At the time, their newly received DECA project that encourages entrepreneurship among K-8 students seemed to be just another item to put on their college application in hopes it would land them a few scholarship dollars.
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Little did they know it would lead to collaborating with Wichita business leaders through the Entrepreneurship Task Force, being featured in The Eagle and on Kansas.com, meeting “Shark Tank’s” Daymond John, presenting to the Greater Wichita Partnership and at 1 Million Cups, and winning first place at the Kansas DECA Competition. That victory has provided them the opportunity to compete at the DECA International Conference in Anaheim, Calif.
High school students continue to amaze me. Not only are they going to school and preparing for college, most are playing sports and involved in extracurricular activities and possibly working part time. While they may not see themselves as entrepreneurs, they are, in fact, more entrepreneurial than most entrepreneurs.
For Noah, Nathan and Riley, it comes as no surprise that they stand out among their peers, but what they’ve demonstrated is that our community must look at our youths not as students but as aspiring young adults striving to make their mark.
Influencing young adults to get involved may seem tiring, but in reality, it is simple: Invite them, inspire them, challenge them and empower them.
Invite a student to join you at an event like 1 Million Cups or Startup Grind.
Inspire a student to think beyond their classroom.
Challenge a student to go beyond their limits and provide them the resources to do so.
Empower a student to have a voice that will be heard.
For most who grew up in Wichita, the goal is to get out, experience the world and seek out opportunity. But for Noah, Nathan and Riley, Wichita State University is their next move.
Now, they’ll be the first to tell you that their initial choices were Manhattan or Lawrence, but after witnessing the power of community support and experiencing first-hand the opportunities available, Wichita is where they know they will thrive.
Entrepreneurship and leadership knows no age limits, and these three students are proof, because they rose to the challenge. All it took was being invited to have a seat at the table.
When asked what made the difference in their decision to remain in Wichita, their response was: “Someone finally took us seriously.”
Jacob Wayman is director of the e2e Accelerator. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in writing for “Business Perspectives”? Contact Tom Shine at email@example.com or 316-268-6268.