More than 50 Nebraska high school seniors gained a glimpse into college life at the fourth annual DREAM BIG (Develop, Risk, Empower, Achieve, Maximize, Build Innovate, Grow) Academy held July 12-15 at the UNL College of Business Administration. Sponsored by ConAgra Foods, the academy is designed to teach business, leadership and networking skills to students from across the state and expose them to future careers. It also helps prepare them for the college search.
“DREAM BIG is a great opportunity for high school juniors to get exposure to UNL, college life, majors and career opportunities in business,” said Wendy Hunt, academic advisor for CBA. “Through ConAgra’s sponsorship, first generation, low income and underrepresented students from 26 high schools in Nebraska were able to be a part of this academy free of charge.”
UNL students served as mentors for the student groups, and the academy students stayed in campus residence halls to get the full college experience. They also met with professors to discuss various areas of business and how these skills are utilized in both your life and career.
Through the college’s relationships with its business partners, students sharpened their conversation skills at a speed networking event with more than 50 local business professionals. The students also visited Super Target and ConAgra for unique, hands-on learning opportunities. In Lincoln, they interacted with the executive team leaders at Super Target and participated in activities to demonstrate the importance of budgeting and supply chain management. Their final day, spent at ConAgra Foods in Omaha, students collaborated on a research and development project with ConAgra staff, and heard from the finance, information technology and supply chain management teams about their careers.
Beyond the exploration of business topics, students discovered and expanded their strengths with Charles McClendon, who earned his bachelor’s degree in finance and MBA from CBA and owns a consulting business called No Ceilings.
“I enjoy working with the students and seeing the transformations during the four-day academy. This could be their one life-changing opportunity. When they learn the potential they each have due to their own strengths, it is powerful and I want to give back. I also like being back at my alma mater,” McClendon said.
In one of the strengths sessions, former Husker football great and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers motivated the students to dream big and surround themselves with people who will encourage them to make their dreams a reality.
“Good performance is about participating at a high level in whatever you desire to achieve,” Rodgers explained. “Having a mentor is crucial to your success so you have someone pushing you to be your best.”
The academy concluded with a graduation ceremony and celebration hosted at ConAgra Foods. The students presented on different topics they explored during the academy to more than 150 of their families and guests in attendance.
View the Storify to see the social media posts made by DREAM BIG students, mentors and staff detailing their experiences: https://storify.com/UNLCBA/dream-big-2015