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Leading future entrepreneurs
Photo: Andrzej Jarek Gojke
Teens learn innovation and leadership
More than 100 high-school students from Poland, Russia and the United States came together recently in Gdynia, Poland, to learn what it takes to operate and manage a successful business venture.
The students were joined by Boeing employees from Seattle and Warsaw who served as advisors and helped guide students through Gdynia Business Week, a weeklong series of leadership and innovation workshops that's part of the company's Global Corporate Citizenship activities in the region. The two-year-old program's goals are to encourage the development of the future workforce and inspire positive attitudes towards community businesses.
“The Polish and Russian students are just like the American ones: creative, enthusiastic and fun.”
—Kathleen Reid, a BCA executive sponsor and member of the executive board at Washington Business Week.
Modeled after the successful U.S. program Washington Business Week, Gdynia Business Week builds the confidence of young entrepreneurs through interactions with experienced business people to make a positive difference in their local business communities. This year, 25 business people from various industries took part in the workshops and other activities, including 11 from the U.S. and six from Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
Participants are divided into teams of 8–12 students that act as small companies; each team includes a Polish educator, an American student and an American business advisor. Students compete in marketing, production and finance challenges and create shareholders' presentations and trade show displays that are judged on the final day.
Photo: Andrzej Jarek Gojke
"It is critical for Boeing as a corporate leader to act responsibly and help its local communities," said Henryka Bochniarz, President of Boeing Central & Eastern Europe. "The company’s involvement in these types of activities demonstrates its support for education, civic and arts and culture programs as necessary elements of sustainable communities."
Kathleen Reid, a BCA executive sponsor and member of the executive board at WBW added. "Gdynia Business Week is terrific—it helps the students learn to see the opportunities for their future," Reid said. "The Polish and Russian students are just like the American ones: creative, enthusiastic and fun."
The students were not the only ones who benefitted from the program, according to BCA employee advisor Kevin Ibatuan. "Being an employee volunteer gave me an opportunity to improve my leadership skills and bring these experiences and skills back to the workplace," Ibatuan said.
Kris Fellrath, a former educator and now VP of BCA Business Operations attended many of the WBW events. She said about the weeklong event, "This program is about the importance of infusing a passion for business into the education system. The future of our business is dependent on a strong pipeline of business-minded professionals, and WBW is a great partner that is working toward that goal."
Gdynia Business Week was created last year by the Seattle-Gdynia Sister City Association. The first edition of the program was so successful that it was recognized by the city of Seattle as the "Best Single Project" in 2009 and by the National Sister Cities Association as the "Best Project for Youth and Innovation." More than 200 students have participated in the program so far.
"This program makes a real difference for the students, and its benefits don't end at graduation," Bochniarz explained. "Students become part of an extensive alumni network that can help them to succeed. Some might qualify for internships in the U.S., while others could win scholarships for Advanced Business Week or vocational pathways in healthcare, aerospace or process technology on college campuses across Washington State."
Boeing supports a number of ongoing projects in Central and Eastern Europe that focus on health and human services, and educational and civic activities. Other initiatives and partnerships the company supports include: the Polish Aviation Museum in Cracow, the Association of Jewish Historical Institute, Technical University of Lodz, Junior Achievement Foundation and the Our Earth Foundation.