By Carrie Henderson
The campus tour was a little bigger than usual for the UNC Chapel Hill tour guide, but this was a different sort of group getting a tour.
Forty-five foster children – juniors and seniors from Forsyth County schools – were getting a close look at one of the dreams they might live out if they can get the right sort of assistance – attending college.
James, an eighteen-year-old rising senior, liked what he saw: “This is a great opportunity because it enhances my education and allows me to have fun in the process.”
Along with his peers, James participated in Teens Engaged in Aspiring Mentorships – an Uplifting Partnership (TEAM UP), sponsored by Winston-Salem State University. The goal of TEAM UP is to enhance awareness, knowledge and appreciation of what it takes to succeed within the free enterprise system through a weeklong series of activities.
According to Notis Pagiavlas, Associate Professor for Marketing and Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at WSSU, the community is already taking notice: “The response we received from the community was astounding… Preliminary feedback by major organizations indicates a sustainable program that we might offer every year, and across sister institutions.”
Many foster youth in the state struggle with the transition out of the foster system. State support disappears at age 18, making it tough for them to get into college or make a smooth transition into the workplace.
“TEAM UP is about learning the three M’s: money, marketing and management. But it is about more than that. We are given skills that will help us succeed in the future while being surrounded in a family environment,” said James.
One main activity during the week was learning how to work with computers and create a business plan. In mid-June, each student was given a laptop, with the understanding that they could keep the laptop for two months. In October, students will create business plans and share them with career professionals, who determine if the plans are viable. If so, the students are allowed to keep the laptops until December when a follow up business plan is due. If the students are responsible and show initiative, the laptop is theirs to keep.
Other activities included team-building with other students, a visit to North Carolina state government offices and instruction on financial literacy, budgeting and personal credit. Combined, these activities were designed to immerse the teens in a fun atmosphere while encouraging them to finish school and pursue productive career and life options.
WSSU is committed to enhancing the lives of foster youth through various entrepreneurship activities. The activities of TEAM UP are made possible through contributions from the PTP WIRED grant, BB&T, DataMax Foundation, Social Services via the LINKS program, the WSSU School of Business and Economics, the WSSU Center for Entrepreneurship and in-kind donations from volunteer teams and partner organizations.
While the final phase of TEAM UP is set to end in December, Pagiavlas is confident the program will continue to grow in the future. He believes TEAM UP “reflects most the core values of UNC Tomorrow by blending educational and personal development activities for foster youth.”
For further information, please contact:
Notis A. Pagiavlas
Associate Professor for Marketing and Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship
School of Business and Economics
Winstom-Salem State University