After a week of preparation, building leadership and networking skills at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 39 rising high school seniors culminated their DREAMBIG Academy experience by pitching their innovative ideas in a “Shark Tank”-style format. Students thrived in the competition and at the academy through collaboration and community.
“We had to figure out the best solution to solve a problem we found,” said Hannah Rethmeier from Crete High School. Her team won the pitch competition with their idea for Clout Chaserz, a personal style and fashion mobile app. “We came together around a common goal. We were competitive and wanted to win, and we had the willingness to work together and with our mentor, and to use our strengths within the team to achieve it.”
This sense of community starts from day one of the academy, where current college students serve as mentors to motivate the high school students to Start Something. Students live in a university residence hall to get the full college experience and meet with professors to discuss areas of business and career skills, explore different majors and college resources and discover their strengths through hands-on projects. The students also connect with a multitude of business professionals through a networking reception. Many of the mentors previously attended the academy and believe in paying their beneficial experience forward.
“If you dream big, anything is possible. College is about learning and exploring yourself as an individual. Meeting new people at DREAMBIG Academy is valuable because these connections will help support you throughout college,” said Veronica Sanchez, an academy alumnus, two-time mentor and junior human resources management major from Gibbon, Nebraska.
Austin Hoefling, a junior finance major from Lincoln, Nebraska, said he grew closer with his mentees each day and saw their growth throughout the academy. He noted the changes in student’s reflections completed during the week and through personal conversations.
“I came to share my knowledge and passion for business, but I think my mentees taught me more. I’m glad to call them my friends and be a part of their growth this week. From creating their product to memorizing their pitch, I couldn’t be more proud of my mentees,” he said.
In its seventh year, the academy, which was recognized this year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education District VI with the Gold Award in Diversity Programs, has proven to be more than a transformative five days. It is a program that positively impacts students’ four years at university and beyond.
“Through this opportunity to come to campus and experience what college is like, we hope these students have gained tools to apply to college, and ultimately become successful and feed their passions. The success of this program is the community supporting it,” said Dr. Kathy Farrell, James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean of the College of Business. “It’s made a positive impact on the 285 students who have completed the program and who represent 38 Nebraska cities and 62 high schools.”
Building upon the success of the program, the college recently launched other pre-college programs such as the Accounting Summit. Ashleigh Henderson, who attends Benson High School in Omaha, attended both DREAMBIG Academy and the Accounting Summit. Through the two camps, she solidified her decision to pursue a career in accounting.
“The two camps were completely different experiences, but they were both wonderful in their own ways. At the Accounting Summit, we got to talk specifically about accounting with a small group of people. With DREAMBIG, we explored absolutely everything, from learning about careers to learning more about ourselves,” she said.
Participants qualify for the Nebraska Emerging Leaders Scholarship of $2,000 for completing the DREAMBIG Academy and meeting academic requirements their senior year in high school. To learn more about the college’s pre-college programs, visit: https://business.unl.edu/precollege