Rio Grande hosts leadership conference

RIO GRANDE, Ohio – High school students from throughout Ohio attended the 42nd annual American Free Enterprise and Leadership Conference the week of June 15 at the University of Rio Grande.

The week-long conference offered an intensive introduction to business economics and the benefits of free enterprise. Participants earn up to three college credits by attending lectures, panel discussions and a field trip. Students also create and operate small businesses through assigned groups.

“They get to stay on a college campus and experience a small portion of what college life could be like,” conference manager Lance Humphrey said. “For some students this is their deciding factor to even attend college.”

This year’s conference attracted 24 students from eight counties, some traveling from as far as Lorain County in northern Ohio. More than 3,000 students have gained an appreciation for free market economics and entrepreneurship since the conference started in 1973.

Humphrey, a sixth-grade science teacher at Symmes Valley Middle School and 2000 Rio graduate, has served as conference manager the last 14 years. Conference participants engage with current Rio students through Enactus, the campus student organization that formally hosts the conference.

Through Enactus, Rio students work with business and academic leaders to help transform the lives of those in need throughout the surrounding communities, and the world. Started in 1978, Enactus teachers students to help create a more sustainable world through business and entrepreneurial practices.

“It is a great peek into the world of business,” Symmes Valley High sophomore Kaleb Reynolds said of the conference.

This year featured four student companies: Dignity, Freedom, Liberty and Leadership Academy. The 14 returning students formed Leadership Academy with the remaining 10 students split amongst Dignity, Freedom and Liberty.

Students earn two college credits their first year at the conference and one additional credit their second year for ECO 10302, Free Market Economics. Students study capital formation, the role of profits, taxes, productivity and entrepreneurship.

Registration for the conference is $75, which covers meals, housing and the field trip. This year students visited the Ohio State University South Centers.

“While the students are here they get the learning experience of what works and what doesn’t work in the field of business, economics and entrepreneurship. The students find out that economics isn’t as dry as charts and graphs,” said Carol Smith, director of the Loren M. Berry Center of Economic Education at Rio and advisor to Enactus. “Students also create lifelong friendships, especially those returning for their second year.”

Lectures included the following topics: Free Enterprise, Entrepreneurship, Small Business, Corporate Business, Productions/Operations, Marketing, Customer Service, Personal Finance, Ethics, Diversity, Importance of a College Education, Business Dinging Etiquette and Behavior Economics.

“It was a fun and exciting way to gain college experience and knowledge, as well as gaining real world experience,” Dawson-Bryant High junior Kimberly Schmidt said.

Guest speakers deliver the majority of presentations and participate in panel discussion groups. Speakers this year included Humphrey, SUDEXO Catering Manager Terra Fowler and members of the Rio Grande faculty and staff – Director of Multi-Cultural Affairs Meau Jones, retired Dean of Students Elaine Armstrong, Associate Professor of Business and Marketing Wesley Thoene, Ph.D. and Director of Management Information Services Steve Cox, Ph.D.