“Our kids don’t think that the sky’s the limit often, so we have a responsibility to broaden their horizons so that they can be successful and help out in the community,” said Murnane.
Some of the other leaders who participated in the program were Cathy Cruz Gooch, president and CEO of Catallia Mexican Foods; Dave Bice, owner of Bald Eagle Erectors; Michael McHugh, owner of Midwest Construction Group; Bob Kirchoff, chief executive officer of Schoeder Company Inc.; Joel Moryn, president of Parsons Electronic; Juan Ramirez, president of Marelita’s Cookies & Grupo Avance; Sirish Samba, president and CEO McCombs Frank Roos Associates (MFRA); Prince Wallace, owner and CEO of Independent Packaging Services Inc.; and Tom Whitlock, president of Damon Farber Associates.
What Murnane feels is unique about the program is that the owners, presidents and CEO’s of the companies involved in the program have decided to work directly with the 8th graders they are mentoring and have come up with curriculums to work through during the school year. The program started in October and will end in April.
Towards the end of Cheung Ho’s session with the program in February, she plans to have the participants attend a luncheon held by General Mills CEO, Ken Powell. “Ken has hosted an entrepreneurial luncheon over the past couple of years for MEDA clients and during these sessions he shares his management techniques, leadership style and experience with our entrepreneurs of color. I’m hoping by bring the children to the luncheon—they will see firsthand how the entrepreneurs of color interact with Ken and other corporate executives,” said Cheung Ho. “The name of the program is Imagine Possibilities, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do here; help them imagine possibilities of being who they want to be and who they’d like to become. The way I’m presenting it to them is their potential as an entrepreneur.”
These 44 students were broken up into small groups based on Risen Christ’s president, Helen Dahlman’s knowledge of each child. She made sure each child was placed with an entrepreneur whose business attributes and focus were those similar to the child. Each group explores the importance of leadership, the affects their chosen business plays on the community, what it takes to create a product or a service that is successful, and some of the challenges. Some students have even had the opportunity to visit the facilities of many of the businesses partnered with the Imagine Possibilities program. The businesses involved cover many different bases, from tortilla making, milk production, health care, to construction.
“What we see them taking from it is excitement for their own future, direction for their studies in high school, and the realization that they can really do something,” said Murnane. She says that so far during the course children have had lots of questions, and understand a lot as consumers. Murnane believes that by these entrepreneurs taking an interest in the futures of these young individuals, it has forced them to see the value in their own. Many of the business owners have pushed that the key to their success has been education and hope that if the youth do not take anything else from this unique learning experience about businesses, they will take with them the significance of higher education.
Some students will continue their real world business experiences when they attend Cristo Rey Jesuit High School next fall, which allows students who cannot afford to get a college preparatory education to do so through its unique work-study program. Their Hire4Ed (hire for education) program eases the burden of enrollment cost while broadening horizons and encouraging students to set high goals for themselves. Others will go on to DeLaSalle High School and have the opportunity to take college credits and move closer toward their futures as well. Risen hopes that by enriching their children’s lives in this manner, the children in turn will want to do the same and become positive fixers in their own community.