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Teens Explore Entrepreneurship and Leadership In Experience Created by College Students

College Hosts Inaugural CliftonStrengths Competition
Teens Explore Entrepreneurship and Leadership In Experience Created by College Students
Connor Utech talks with a team from one of four Lincoln high schools who competed in the inaugural CliftonStrengths Competition. Utech and other student strengths coaches and Clifton Builders helped the teens better their business pitches by talking about what talents each team member brings to the business.

Nearly 100 high school students from the Lincoln Public Schools Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Program explored entrepreneurship and how they can utilize their talents in a custom campus experience created by a team of college students in November. Students involved with the Clifton Strengths Institute brought the idea of a CliftonStrengths Competition to life to benefit local teens.

“I love that college students are building the future of their college by taking ownership of the culture and placing a high emphasis on building relationships with our students,” said Jon Davidson, AVID curriculum specialist for Lincoln Public Schools. “We started the day by students competing against their own schools. Juniors from across the district got to work together and see there are some great friends they may not know yet. They cheered for each other as the competition progressed to the final pitches.”

Kathy Farrell shakes hands with a student.
Dean Kathy Farrell congratulates one of the team members from Northeast High School who won the competition for best business pitch.

The top four business pitches included a hangout space, a zen zone to help college students relax and recharge, a laundry delivery service and a movie drive-in. Northeast High School’s team took first place with Mom’s Laundry.

“I’m so proud of them because most of their group wasn’t able to come today, and they persevered,” said Erik Reiners, teacher at Northeast. “They stuck with their initial idea they created a week ago and were able to formulate it today with the help of the college students here at the College of Business. They could have thrown their idea away, but they decided to take a risk. They got to think at a critical level and come up with their own business model and compete at the same time. It really created engagement, competition and fun.”

Simon Schumacher, a junior management major from Columbus, Nebraska, took the lead in planning workshops for high school students that explored the four domains of CliftonStrengths, including strategic thinking, relationship building, executing and influencing. He and 22 other student strengths coaches and Clifton Builders led the teens to improve their startup ideas by considering their team’s talents.

“Designing the workshops this way enabled them to learn about CliftonStrengths, entrepreneurship and how each different domain can be applied to be better businesses,” Schumacher said. “It feels great that our ambitious vision became a reality. These students ended the day feeling accomplished.”

By adding a focus on CliftonStrengths, the workshops provided leadership development and self-discovery. While most teens had no prior experience with the talent assessment, they could still apply how to lean into what they do best.

“Centering the conversation on CliftonStrengths enables you to reflect on your innate talents and communicate the skills you contribute to a team in a common language. Even if their idea does not win the pitch competition at the end of the day, they left with a new understanding of their potential as a person and a new way in which they approach problems,” said Connor Utech, senior accounting major from Bennington, Nebraska.

The competition provided a learning experience for both high school and college students. The competitors also benefited from the workshops and gained valuable insight and information from college students.

“You could feel their joy and energy, and that’s amazing. I hope these high school students gained self-confidence through the process. I would not have been able to pitch an idea to admissions counselors and a college dean at that age,” said Kate Aleknavicius, junior Clifton Builders management major from Grafton, Wisconsin.

In-classroom workshops and campus experiences like this competition are available to Nebraska high school teachers. Learn more about these outreach programming opportunities at:

Published: December 11, 2023