By Julian McKenzie

“We graduated from university.”
It was a message left on a whiteboard by high school students, some as young as thirteen years old, who had recently graduated from the inaugural John Molson School of Business Young CEO Program.
Fourteen high school students from the Summer Youth Cooperative, coordinated by Tyndale St. Georges Community Centre, the Outreach Department of Union United Church, CLSC St. Henri, and other organizations in Montreal’s Southwest borough, spent four mornings (July 6 – 9) at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University.
The students had the opportunity to work with Masters of Business Administration students through interactive workshops on leadership, money management, basic business concepts, and teamwork.
“I learned how to handle money, on the business side,” said student Latrell Reid, who is also treasurer of the Summer Youth Cooperative. “It also helped me decide on what I would like to do for the future.”
The youth also attended a presentation at the Career Management Services Department and toured various university facilities, including the state-of-the-art Molson building, the gymnasium, and the Webster Library.
The main objective of the Young CEO program was to introduce the students to university, which the majority of them enjoyed.
“It was fun,” said Theadora Lynch Blackwood, president of the Summer Youth Cooperative. “I got to have a first time experience of what it would feel like to be in university.”
“I learned that university gives you a variety of choices and options for the future and that anything is possible if you put your mind to it,” said student Cassandra Leacock.
“It was a very interesting experience,” said another student, Tahjantey Adams, who is the vice-president of the co-op. “We learned many things, like how to work in a set schedule, we got to work in a class format, and because we were such a small group, we got to interact closely with the teachers.
The Young CEO program is within the John Molson School of Business’s MBA Community Service Initiative (MBA CSI), which creates opportunities for students, faculty and staff, and community organizations to work together, for the benefit of society. MBA CSI founder and coordinator, Dave McKenzie, who developed the Young CEO program, was overwhelmed with its success and is already thinking of ways to improve and sustain it.
He said that the collegiality was clearly evident from the MBA students, faculty and staff that freely gave of their time conducting tours, preparing materials and conducting workshops, to designing and printing certificates, but the best part was working with and learning from those students.
“Seeing those kids sitting in that Executive MBA classroom role playing and interacting with each other, seeing their level of participation, their intelligence and their confidence, highlighted the fact that these kids are ready, they just need the opportunity,” said McKenzie.
“This was a mutual exchange of learning,” said instructor El Nasser Amin, MBA 2016, said. “These kids can be anything that they want to be.”
Following the completion of the program, the students received Certificates of Completion in a graduation ceremony, officiated by Dr. Sandra Betton, Director of the MBA, Graduate Diploma in Business Administration and Graduate Certificate in Business Administration.
Dr. Betton congratulated the students, and explained that high school is part of the journey towards university and that she was looking forward to seeing some of them at the JMSB and /or Concordia in the near future.
Sharon Nelson, Assistant Director of the Executive MBA program, who graciously provided the use of their state of their art facilities for the program, also left a passionate message with the students.
“Don’t let anyone decide what subjects you can and cannot do, you have the ability, just believe in yourself and put in the work,” she said.
While the students are only high schoolers, they are already looking into the future. University seems to be in the plans for most of the youth who graduated from the Young CEO program. The youth are up for the challenge of what post-secondary schooling will bring, as well as beyond.
“It makes you feel happy,” said Blackwood. “It gave us a brief trailer of what the future holds for us.”
“[The program] helped us become leaders and boosted our confidence,” Adams continued. “It prepared us for the working world.”