While many high schoolers aren’t sure what they want to study in college, students in the Kelley Challenge program through Upward Bound at IUPUI are getting a head start. Forty Indianapolis high school students participated in the weeklong case study this summer, getting a chance to sample college work at the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI while also working closely with local companies who are hiring.
“Supply chain and advanced manufacturing are among the fastest growing industries in this area, and most students don’t know what supply chain is, who supply chain companies are or what they do,” says Enjoli Hampton-Brown, associate director of professional development and engagement at Kelley Indianapolis Career Services. “Partnering closely with these companies gives high school students exposure to these professions. It also helps our employers who are looking to expand their early talent pipeline into high school by growing their brand awareness among these students.”
The Kelley Challenge comprises the final week of a five-week summer program led by Upward Bound, which works with public schools around the Indianapolis area to prepare minority and first-generation students for college. While Upward Bound provides year-round programming, the summer academy brings high schoolers to the IUPUI campus (or virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic) to take academic courses, experience mini-internships, take educational day trips and complete college visits to other institutions.
“One thing I appreciate about the Kelley Challenge is many of our students don’t have a good sense of where they want to land professionally, but even if they don’t go on to study business, this experience gives them a baseline of professional skills,” says Roxanne Gregg, director of IUPUI Upward Bound. “There are experiences our students have never had, like an interview or the opportunity to talk to a professional who could hire them in the future. This allows them a safe environment in which to have these experiences while gaining constructive and positive feedback.”
Over the five days of the Kelley Challenge, high schoolers were asked to study and respond to a business case study presented by two local employers: Anthem and Geico. A common element of any business school curriculum, case studies challenged the students to solve problems, communicate effectively in teams, present their case to a client, interview for jobs and present themselves professionally.
“This weeklong experience gave them the opportunity to answer questions virtually and take on speaking roles within their teams, giving them practice in delegating tasks and working in groups, which is important in college,” says DeVol Tyson, II, academic coordinator at IUPUI Upward Bound. “Now they have experience under their belt presenting, public speaking, compiling research and working in teams. It’s great to watch them become business students.”
The high schoolers say the Kelley Challenge was an eye-opening experience that gave them insights into what they want to do professionally, their strengths and weaknesses and confidence for the future.
“I’ve always wanted to do something in business, but I was nervous about not doing well. Talking to these professionals helped me realize I can do it. I feel a lot more comfortable about going into business,” says Leila Thompson, a sophomore at Warren Central High School. “I always wanted to go to college, but college is a scary thing. This experience helped me become a lot more comfortable talking about college, and I know what I’m talking about.”
“The most important information I learned throughout this experience is holding yourself accountable for your schedule. Even if something goes wrong, you still follow through on what you’ve said you’ll do,” adds Vanessa Pettyjohn, a senior at Warren Central High School.
“You’re not going to come across this opportunity anywhere else. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance as a high schooler to talk to business owners and practice for actual, professional world,” adds Jaylon Baity, a senior at Lawrence Central High School.
For many students, the Kelley Experience is the first time they attempt to sell themselves in an interview or talk to professionals in a networking setting. The case experiences with Anthem and Geico provided them with a glimpse into work they might pursue upon graduating college.
“Business is definitely a career option for me because I enjoy the environment,” says Sandra Russell, a senior at Arsenal Tech High School. “When we worked with Anthem, it was a really good, diverse experience, and I like that about business.”
For their part, the employers enjoyed getting to connect with students early in their education while showcasing their companies as potential employers and helping students grow professionally.
“We were blown away with the ideas that the high school students presented as part of the Kelley Challenge. We took away a few innovative ideas for solutions on how we can continue to build grassroots at the high school level that we will certainly implement into our go-forward campus recruitment strategy,” said Brooke Smith, university relations manager at Anthem. “As Anthem works to grow early career hiring across the enterprise, it’s crucial for us to also start building grassroots relationships and brand awareness at the high school level. Our hope is that when these high school students go to college and look to land an internship, they consider Anthem as a top employer of choice when they are ready to start their careers.”
For the Kelley School, the experience gives the top-ranked college business school a chance to give back by helping high schoolers find their way and by connecting employers with an early talent pipeline that ultimately helps all parties achieve career placement for Indiana college graduates.
“From a career services standpoint, I want to ensure whatever we’re doing is helping students shape their career identity, because many times, students have a limited view of what they can and can’t be,” says Enjoli. “When you have more exposure to career options, you begin to change that perspective. During Kelley Challenge week I saw a lot of students conquering fears and adjusting to their nerves while still pushing forward. By doing that, they realize what they can achieve.”