Our Camp BizWorld at Bank of the West

Written by Janet Lee, Education Manager

"It takes a village..." This seems to be the recurring theme when working with youth in educational spaces. As I transitioned from the classroom into the nonprofit world, one of my main goals has been creating that bridge between community resources and the schools that they seek to serve. In order to make “real-world learning” happen effectively, our classrooms not only need funding and support from the communities, but also the authentic interactions and experience where students can begin to imagine and plan for their futures. BizWorld Camps provide such a unique opportunity for corporate sponsors to partner with a school and make a lasting impact as they empower students through entrepreneurship education.

Earlier this month, thanks to the generosity of Bank of the West, we were able to bring the BizWorld Camp experience to a classroom of 4th and 5th graders from Garfield Elementary School in Oakland, CA. During this 2-day field trip, we invited Mr. Khalifah’s boys mentorship group to Bank of the West’s corporate center in San Ramon, CA and introduced the scholars to an unforgettable entrepreneurship experience.

For many of the students, this was their first time in a corporate environment, and they were so excited! They were so eager to meet the employees who had volunteered their time, not to mention, entering and exiting through the fancy security entrance for the building which was a hit! Volunteers from the Bank of the West team served as venture capitalists, company advisors, and marketing consultants along the way to enhance this experience. The students shined as they presented their pitches to “VCs” and they were thrilled to work with volunteers as they learned all about running a successful business! It really did feel like an inspiring learning experience for everyone who participated.

I loved watching the students light up as they worked in company groups to start and run their friendship bracelet businesses. Of course, we faced some challenges and disagreements about which color raw materials to purchase or what the company logo should look like, but hey, that’s real life, and we all learned to work through it.

The classroom teacher, Mr. Khalifah, reflected on the experience saying that there were “lots of ‘aha! moments’ in terms of decision-making, cause and effect, and using math skills to practice financial responsibility.” He also noted that many soft skills were highlighted such as working on self-control, collaborating with team members, and practicing leadership roles.

The students also shared little nuggets of information that they learned from the experience:

  • “Teamwork gets things done faster and more efficiently!”
  • “You can be a leader by being a good model to others.”
  • “Try your hardest, be calm, and make good choices.”

All useful advice, even for adults!

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