This paper has covered the finals for the Career Partners E-Squared competition for a number of years. This year I had the privilege of serving as one of the judges for the preliminary round where 12 teams are whittled down to six for the finals.
So I found myself with other judges from the business community, reviewing business plans and scoring rubrics as teams of students did their presentations. Many of the judges, like myself, were doing this for the first time.
As it turned out, two of the teams that our group judged ended up in the final round. The main entry hallway at Eastern View was electric that morning as coaches, judges and key organizers like Randi Richards-Lutz, Chuck Gyory and Mike Dale talked about this program that for nearly 10 years has sparked innovative and creative thinking among Culpeper’s public school high school students. That and team building are keys to its success. Students volunteer to participate in this extracurricular activity where, like the reality of the work force, they are put together in sometimes unlikely combinations of personalities where they need to build on the strengths and weaknesses of their colleagues to come up with a business plan detailing their product or service.
Coaches serve as mentors and advisors but it’s the students that ultimately are put to the test. Last Thursday the finals were held at the county administration building. The teams of presenters anxiously wait to be called. The room is full of parents, friends, coaches and others who have come to see which team will win. The judges represent major corporations in the Culpeper area. Think mini-Shark Tank.
The questions targeted but not so tough that it left any of them speechless or without an answer. All teams were well prepared. Over the years the calibre of the presentations just keeps getting better and better.
The stakes are high. Each member of the winning team takes home a $5,000 scholarship courtesy of many sponsors who value this program. “I’m so nervous,” I heard her say as Mikayla Jenkins waited to hear the results. When Mike Dale announced that Trauma Bands was this year’s winner, she jumped for joy hugging her teammates and wearing a priceless smile. She was also named by the coaches as one, in their minds, that would find success later in life.
Their idea was to arm primarily emergency responders with a device, worn on the wrist, that would record vital signs. Faced with a disaster situation, that responder would have the ability to monitor up to 15 patients and respond quickly. Good things happening around us sometimes get lost in the chaos of life’s harsher realities. When this event happens each year it is a time to applaud everyone that has made it happen and to celebrate youth and their enthusiasm, vitality, innocence and strength.
Theirs is a success story made possible by a caring community.