Sharing the benefits of education and entrepreneurial skills with at-risk youth
Known for its apples, hops, wineries and sunshine, the Yakima Valley – just two hours east of Seattle – is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the United States. Yet despite its agricultural prosperity, school dropout rates are among the highest in the state, 84 percent of households receive government nutritional assistance, and average weekly wages are low. But the staff and students at Heritage University are working to change all that.
Heritage was founded on the belief that a college education should be accessible to anyone with the talent and drive to pursue a degree – regardless of economics, culture or geographic location.
They do things a bit differently. Class sizes are extremely small (11 students per class is the norm), and many are held in the evenings in order to accommodate students’ work schedules. Thanks to Microsoft technology like OneNote, Skype, and Office 365, students can easily collaborate with each other despite time zone differences or physical location.
And, as Microsoft executives Chris Capossela, Tony Prophet, Steve Petitpas, and Ana White recently learned, Heritage University is doing something very, very right.
Becoming an agent of change
One of the university’s many programs is Enactus, an international non-profit organization using the power of entrepreneurship to improve the quality of life and standard of living for people in need.
This year’s Heritage Enactus team finished fourth in the Enactus national competition in St. Louis, Missouri, competing against 250 other colleges and universities.
What got the Heritage Enactus team noticed? A two-week camp, created in 2015 and expanded this year, focusing on at-risk middle schoolers.
Camp S.E.E.D.: Changing the community, one middle schooler at a time
Camp S.E.E.D. is a summer program for at-risk 11- to 14-year-olds throughout the Yakima Valley, teaching social, economic and environmental development (“S.E.E.D”) through various activities and projects like business ethics, personal and business financial management and job-hunting skills.
“Like other Enactus projects, Camp S.E.E.D. provides an important service to the Valley and adds an important dimension to our students’ education,” says Dr. John Bassett, president of Heritage University. “The campers learn entrepreneurial skills and financial literacy; Heritage students learn how to mentor young people in life skills.”
On July 27th, Tony Prophet, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of education marketing, and Chris Capossela, chief marketing officer for Microsoft, visited the Heritage campus to talk with campers and Heritage students and staff.
“It was so wonderful to see firsthand the impact of the Heritage students on the lives of the S.E.E.D Campers. We left humbled and excited to do more together” said Tony Prophet.
A shared mission
“The Heritage students inspired us with the amazing work they are doing — mentoring and teaching economically disadvantaged youth to help make better lives for themselves and their families,” said Capossela. “We at Microsoft are proud of the relationship we are building with Heritage Enactus, which has created impacts in their local community to as far away as Panama.”
With a mission to empower every teacher and student to do more, Microsoft salutes Heritage University’s Enactus team and Camp S.E.E.D. By using the right tools to reinforce the skills required by today’s workplace, programs like Camp S.E.E.D. help ensure that students are not only prepared for the work force, but primed for success – no matter what obstacles they must overcome.