Students recognized for work in local global economic event

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published March 7, 2014

 Students from Roseville High School pose for a photo at the Macomb Intermediate School District in November for the Global Trade Mission program. The Roseville Community Schools recently honored students for their participation in the program.

Students from Roseville High School pose for a photo at the Macomb Intermediate School District in November for the Global Trade Mission program. The Roseville Community Schools recently honored students for their participation in the program.

Photo courtesy of Roseville Community Schools

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ROSEVILLE — The Roseville school board honored a group of high school students March 3 for their work with the Macomb County Global Trade Mission, a program dedicated to teaching students to identify and work on needs around the world from an economic perspective.

The students had the opportunity to tell an audience of family and friends about the projects they pitched, ranging from air pollution filters to medical devices.

Jeff Verkeyn, the high school’s marketing teacher, said this is the second year Roseville has participated in the program, which draws students from schools across Macomb County. He said 22 Roseville students in all volunteered to take part, and they went to the Macomb Intermediate School District in November for the three-day event to simulate a trade mission and pitch their idea.

“So the first day, the kids get put into groups; no one from the same (social) group is put in a group so that they learn team dynamics and teamwork. They choose a product they want to make, and the kids come up with amazing stuff,” Verkeyn said.

The program is the brainchild of Macomb ISD Career Education Specialist Karen Johnston, who said she picked up the idea during a meeting of the Oakland County schools she had attended. They had been doing a similar program for several years, and she said it sounded like an “amazing idea.”

“When I was listening to what the kids had to do, I couldn’t even get my arms around it because it was just so deep, so rich,” Johnston said. “I said we need to do this here, and they need to be able to think globally.”

About 200 students showed up for November’s event, which was the seventh year. Johnston said the ISD recruits local businesspeople to serve as evaluators and to give some advice and guidance to the students. The kids are responsible for figuring out what kind of virtual product they could find a market for, however.

“They pick a country where they want to sell it, and they get with business coaches, who are local businesspeople,” Verkeyn said. “They help them formulate a business plan and product, and they get diversity training so they get to learn about different areas and what kind of needs they have, as well as problems they may run into with their government.”

On the second day, the kids finalized their plans and learned how to make a PowerPoint presentation, and Verkeyn said that on the final day, they presented their pitches to a panel of judges made up of businesspeople and diversity coaches for a pretend $1 million investment.

He said only one group won that prize, though awards also went out to some of the other participating groups. While Verkeyn said the program is a great confidence-booster for the kids as they learn how to present a product, there are other benefits.

“It’s a great opportunity. They learn a lot about the global economy, teamwork and team dynamics,” Verkeyn said. “It’s nice for the kids to be able to talk to local businesspeople, learn about diversity, and the kids really come away with a lot of info in a short period of time.”

The students who took the pretend $1 million prize included Roseville’s Daja Nixon, Elijah Collier, Sam Dillon and Mia Hannah. Brianna Spitaels, Taylor Hughes-Griggs, Jesse Menendez and Tyler Petrone’s groups won the diversity, enthusiasm, resourcefulness and team unity awards, respectively.

Verkeyn said he has pushed his marketing students hard to participate in the program, and the feedback has been generally positive from them. He said his students have appreciated the chance to try to “produce” something themselves with a variety of diverse factors to consider and with professional business advice.

“One of my kids had a catalytic converter that they used to clean air in China because the air is so dirty,” Verkeyn said. “It’s amazing to see what these kids come up with.”

Johnston said the program is beneficial to the students, and thus the schools, because it helps them think outside the area they live in and consider the challenges and opportunities other parts of the world present.

“I think it really allows the students to think creatively, and really understand what it means to be a global citizen and to think globally,” she said.

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