Working with the School of Business, Leadership & Entrepreneurship

Oct 26, 2009

Today we kicked off a new kind of community partnership with the School of Business, Leadership & Entrepreneurship (SBLE) at Ottawa Hills High School.

We’ve been working with the Grand Rapids Public Schools for more than 20 years, with volunteer programs focused on elementary students. Amway employees have tutored, been penpals, hosted Career Day and Job Shadow Days, and organized Field Day and Santa’s Secret Workshop events. Amway has also provided funding for school programs, like building playgrounds and furnishing libraries.

This partnership will tap the business acumen and vast experience of our employee base. Amway is a business of entrepreneurs, and what better way to connect high school students to the business world than by teaching about free enterprise and owning your own business. Doing this around the world gives us a unique perspective that high school students can really benefit from. And of course, we always get just as much benefit from the time we spend volunteering.

Our partnership is already in full swing! We have already started discussions with the school about upgrading facilities to create a learning environment that mirrors the business world. Last week, Ottawa Hills trained a group of Amway leaders to serve as mentor coaches for groups of students working on projects together. Amway and community leaders will also be regular speakers for SBLE classes and events. And of course, students will visit the vast Amway headquarters to see real-world examples of how their education will one day turn into practical experience. There are many other programs in the works.

Grand Rapids Public Schools hosted a kick-off ceremony and partnership agreement signing at Grand Valley State University this morning. The first class of 30 freshmen from the SBLE were there, along with about 50 eighth grade “recruits” from across the district who have shown an interest in business as a focus area for education.

Other distinguished guests were there and welcomed the students, including Dr. John Reifel, Associate Dean of the Business College at Grand Valley State University, Dr. Bernard Taylor, the Superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools, Rodney Lewis, Principal of Ottawa Hills High School, and Michael Pascoe, Dean of Students for the School of Business, Leadership  Entrepreneurship.

Our own Amway Chief Marketing Officer gave the keynote address to the students. She talked about her experience growing up poor in a family of 18 children, where education was of utmost importance. Despite the passing of her father when she was only 10, Candace and nearly all of her siblings attended college, and many now have advanced degrees. Candace was recently named Black Enterprise Magazine’s Corporate Executive of the Year, and she used that honor to show the students that they can accomplish whatever they want to, saying “It’s your attitude and your aptitude that determine your altitude.”

We can’t wait to see how this partnership evolves. We are honored to be working with a school with such a great vision and students who may one day be leading the Amway Corporation.

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