Rutgers–Camden Program Introduces Camden-area High School Students to Business Disciplines and Careers

By Jeanne Leong

The new Rutgers University Student Executive (RUSE) program gives South Jersey high school students an opportunity to get a taste of college life and learn about business topics.

During eight Tuesday evenings in the spring semester, 21 high-achieving, underrepresented 10th-to-12th-grade students came to the Rutgers School of Business–Camden to learn from faculty, leaders in the business community, and Rutgers–Camden student mentors.

“The first thing that we wanted to get across to students is that every discipline has an aspect of business to it because leaders exist in all fields,” says Oscar Holmes IV, an assistant professor of management and founding director of the RUSE program.

“The coolest thing of all in the program was when we went to a forum for business owners, and they all had different companies and they explained how each one of them started their companies,” says Emanuel Rodriguez, a junior at Camden County Technical School, Gloucester Township.

Oscar Holmes welcoming attendees to the RUSE closing ceremony.

Oscar Holmes welcoming attendees to the RUSE closing ceremony.

Seven groups of high school students worked in teams of three to create and pitch their original business idea for a product or service. They were assisted by Rutgers–Camden student mentors.

“Being able to help the students with planning and guidance on what they can use, and ideas on how they can develop their business proposal, was an awesome experience,” says James Huggins, a senior finance and human resources major from Houston, Miss. “I would say to them, ‘Think outside of the box. How are you going to distribute your products or idea, what audience are you targeting? What is your mission for your company?’”

“They worked very hard, and they pushed themselves further than what they would normally do in high school,” says Glendora, N.J. resident Holly Heintz, a Rutgers–Camden junior majoring in marketing. “They did a very good job.”

At the program’s closing ceremony, each group participated in a case competition, pitching their business idea to a panel of judges, comprised of two business leaders and two faculty members: Lloyd Freeman, RLAW’07, a partner at Archer Law; Damon Pennington, president and CEO of ATS Group; Akon Ekpo, an assistant professor of marketing; and Andrei Nikiforov, an assistant professor of finance.

In addition to receiving plaques, the top three winning teams received cash prizes donated by the Delta Epsilon Boulé whose members, Freeman and Pennington, also served as session facilitators, and John Harmon, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

Elizabeth Omolaja and her teammates present their product, “Xiety Watch.”

Elizabeth Omolaja, a high school senior at Timber Creek High School in Sicklerville who aspires to become a lawyer and own a law firm, learned valuable lessons about business as well as building self-confidence.

“This competition made me believe in me,” says Omolaja. “This RUSE program made me believe that I could actually grow up and do something with my life.”

Omolaja and her teammates, Confesor Diaz, a senior at Camden County Technical School-Pennsauken Campus, and Mandonna-Nina Nwako, a senior at Timber Creek Regional High School, won first place and $1,750 for their product, “Xiety Watch,” a device that stops panic attacks and sends positive messages to the wearer.

Oscar Holmes with winners of the business case competition

Oscar Holmes with winners of the business case competition

Second-place winners are Aneesah Parker, a senior at Gloucester County Institute of Technology; Melody Rodriguez, a senior at Camden County Technical School-Gloucester Township Campus; and Morgan Sephes, a senior at Timber Creek Regional High School. The team received $1,250 for their business idea, “Medicase,” a device that dispenses the proper amount of medicine to a patient.

Third-place winners are Alexandra Wells, a junior at Washington Township High School; Jada Thomas, a junior at Camden County Technical School-Gloucester Township Campus; and DaJuan Copes, a junior at Leap Academy Charter School. The team won $750 for their business idea, “Report U,” a program to help with writing essays and reports.

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