Two groups of students rush at each other from opposite sides of an auditorium classroom in Fletcher Hall. It’s almost like a flashback to games of dodgeball at recess but, instead of throwing balls at each other, the groups yell numbers back and forth.
“I’ll take two.”
“So you don’t want to sell me your stuff?”
The group of local high school students are learning about value; how to strike a deal; and how to make a buck in the Commodity Exchange Game. With one group of students acting as sellers of goods and the other as buyers, each are tasked with reaching or going over a set amount prescribed to them on a piece of paper.
The afternoon exercise is part of a week-long program titled Business Empowerment Academy. Housed in UTC’s Gary W. Rollins College of Business, it is led by Catherine Middleton, economics lecturer and advisor.
Business Empowerment Academy brings local high school students who may have obstacles standing in their way of attending college. Despite the financial difficulties or that they might be the first ones in their family to attend college, all the students “show a lot of promise as being successful college students,” Middleton explains.
This is the academy’s inaugural year of programming. It was created, Middleton says, to target local high school students who showed talent but were not reached through similar programs.
The participants spend a week living on campus, experiencing college life and learning about business careers from faculty, local business leaders and through trips to local companies.
A roundtable chat with Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, visits to local companies BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Elliot Davis Accounting Firm and Co.Lab give students a taste of the business world. Workshops in financial literacy and meetings with faculty in the Rollins College of Business, as well as visits from admissions and financial aid staff teach students practical knowledge and gives them a glimpse into the workings of a college classroom.
“I really want to go to college,” says Ashley Ogletree, rising senior at East Ridge High School. She has plans of becoming a lawyer and says the Business Empowerment Academy is showing her the potential of earning an undergraduate degree in business. She thinks it could be the next step to reaching her dream career.
Colby Henry, rising senior at McCallie School adds, “My family actually has a background in business, and so I’ve always considered pursuing maybe a minor in business or something. But after this camp, I could really consider it maybe being my major.”