Twenty-seven Nebraska high school students experienced a glimpse of college life at the UNL College of Business Administration’s third annual DREAM BIG (Develop, Risk, Empower, Achieve, Maximize, Build Innovate, Grow) Academy held June 1-5. 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.
Of the 66 DREAM BIG Academy graduates who attended the academy in its first two years, 52 applied to UNL. A majority of those admitted majored in business.
Kayla Cody (left) learns from former mentor Brittany Henry
“Two years ago, I was considering going out of state before I came to DREAM BIG,” said Kayla Cody, a sophomore business administration major from Beatrice, Nebraska. “The experience at DREAM BIG led me to choose Nebraska and the College of Business Administration. I couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”
This year, Cody returned to the academy as a mentor. The focus on networking is what clinched her decision to attend UNL and become a mentor.
“The idea of going away to college is intimidating, but from day one, they show you how to network and make friends. You find out you aren’t the only one coming to a big school, and you start meeting people you’re going to be with for the next four years. Immediately after attending, I knew I wanted to be a mentor,” she said.
Steven Sam, a senior management major from Lincoln, Nebraska, served as a mentor for the third year. The academy impacted his own academic path.
“The first year I mentored it felt like I was going through it, too,” Sam said. “I hadn’t declared a major yet, so while the high school kids were learning about the different business majors, I was taking it in as well.”
Students spent one day in the classroom learning about business majors from CBA professors. They also participated in a series of team-building activities.
DREAM BIG students relax
“Right away they put you through an ice breaker activity where students have to talk about themselves. Then we split up in to teams for the obstacle course challenges. We’d have to hop across tiles on the floor to survive the ‘river of fire.’ Activities like that build a lot of camaraderie,” Sam said.
Attendees lived in campus residence halls to get a sense of what it was like to be immersed in college life. They also interacted with businesses in Lincoln and Omaha.
“The purpose of DREAM BIG was to teach me about business education while allowing me to experience what it is like to be in college. The experience totally blew my mind and has changed me so much. I am ready to start my transition from high school to college because of DREAM BIG. I have the drive to work hard my last year of high school in order to make myself a better college applicant. This has been a wonderful opportunity,” said Elissa Chavez, Northwest High School, Omaha. Neb.
In addition to a fact-finding mission to uncover how businesses operate at the Gateway Mall in Lincoln, they spent the final day at ConAgra Foods in Omaha and presented what they learned at the DREAM BIG Academy to their families and guests at a graduation ceremony.
“The exposure my son, Julio, received to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln during DREAM BIG was invaluable. Partnering with ConAgra also gave him an opportunity to see an actual business and how it operates. Julio could not have had this experience anywhere but at UNL's DREAM BIG Academy,” said Juan Carlos Gutierrez from Lincoln.
Last year, ConAgra Foods merged its former Corporate Explorer Camp after three successful years with the UNL DREAM BIG Academy.
“Our relationship with the College of Business is great for us for so many reasons. We have hired several UNL students and we want to strengthen this partnership because of the impressive overall development of CBA. I look forward to having the opportunity to welcome back DREAM BIG participants as UNL alums and future employees of ConAgra Foods,” said John Gehring, executive vice president and chief financial officer of ConAgra Foods.