Though in-person interaction has been dramatically affected by COVID-19 throughout the past year, the Haworth College of Business has been able to impact hundreds of high school students through two outreach programs: The Financial Reality Fair and the Great Lakes High School Sales Challenge. Both events have seen substantial increases in participation as educators looked for value-added ways to engage students in an online setting and prepare them for life after high school.
Financial Reality Fair
The Financial Reality Fair, a partnership between WMU’s Sanford Center for Financial Planning and Wellness and Arbor Financial Credit Union, helps students improve their financial literacy. The virtual event attracted more than 300 students from several high schools in West Michigan, tripling the size of the most recent in-person offering.
This year’s fair drew current events into the discussion in significant ways.
“The pandemic and its impact on millions of Americans’ personal finances was an impetus for discussions regarding saving, financial planning and budgeting,” says Todd Mora, program manager for the Sanford Center for Financial Planning and Wellness. “Though the economic impact of the pandemic is far-reaching, we spoke about its effect on personal finances and how sound personal financial behaviors can help relieve some of the stress of difficult times. We asked students questions about how they managed during the ‘normal’ financial times presented in the simulation and what it would be like if they lost their job. Preparing students to think about the impact of a sudden financial catastrophe gets them thinking more long-range, which is helpful in their development as financial decision makers.”
Great Lakes High School Sales Challenge
Students from more than 20 Michigan high schools got to finesse their selling skills during the Great Lakes High School Sales Challenge—an event hosted by Western Michigan University’s sales and business marketing program, one of the top sales education programs in the country.
Starting in November, the students began perfecting personal pitches, a sales call role-play, or both. The competition was fully remote with WMU Haworth sales and business marketing students and faculty providing feedback and evaluation in qualification and final rounds. High school students had access to a variety of resources to help prepare them to sell in realistic scenarios.
Now in its third year, the competition idea started with Dr. Jim Eckert, Robert S. Kaiser Professor of Sales. “Sales and business marketing students have participated in many national sales competitions, and instead of starting another at the collegiate level, we thought it would be great to host one for high school students,” says Eckert. “Our relationship with the Michigan Marketing Educators organization provided the perfect opportunity for outreach with high schools where we could provide value to students and educators.”