The 26 high school juniors from across the country who participated in this year’s LEADership, Education and Development (LEAD) summer program at Lehigh got a chance to visit companies in the Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and New York City.
Lehigh alumni helped facilitate visits.
Locally, students toured businesses that included Just Born, The Cup and Martin Guitar.
Outside of the area, they also toured the Cushman & Wakefield real estate firm, Dow Jones, Ernst & Young and the Bravo cable network.
Twana Walker, director of advising for the College of Business and Economics, said the visit to Cushman & Wakefield in New York was special because a 2017 Lehigh LEAD alum helped with the tour. “I was so excited for her,” said Walker about the LEAD alum landing an internship there. In addition to the student’s talents, Walker said, her success in getting the internship also “speaks volumes” about the quality of the LEAD program in developing students’ skills.
Hosted by the College of Business and Economics (CBE), the LEAD program at Lehigh got under way on July 8, for the third consecutive year at the university The three-week program allowed students to develop business skills, network and gain interest in the industry by attending lectures at Lehigh and visiting well-known corporations.
Lehigh was one of six universities hosting the 2018 program. Walker said she was happy that CBE Dean Georgette Phillips facilitated the program at Lehigh because participating students have been inspired to attend the university and consider future business careers.
The LEAD program, a national nonprofit organization, began at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1980 after professors recognized that underrepresented students did not have exposure to business or opportunities. As of 2015, the program had 10,000 alumni.
Each summer, the Lehigh LEAD group consists of no more than 30 high school juniors of diverse backgrounds from across the country who want to learn about business at a top university.
Hailey Nelson was among the 2018 cohort at Lehigh. Although Nelson has already created bows, bracelets and baking businesses, she saw a benefit to applying to the program.
“I realized entrepreneurship is something that I am really interested in,” Nelson said. “The LEAD program allowed me to look at opportunities going forward before even attending college.”
Jarrod Johnson ’91, a former Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers football player who Walker said was a “good role model” for the students, was guest speaker at the closing dinner. He has held various executive positions at healthcare companies.
Other Lehigh alumni, in addition to facilitating corporate visits, also volunteered their time to speak about their expertise.
“The one thing I always tell current students and prospective students in this program is that Lehigh alumni take care of Lehigh alumni,” Walker said. “You are part of the family when you come to Lehigh.”
Nelson said she enjoyed talking to Mo Taylor ’02, a co-owner of the Bayou restaurant in Bethlehem.
“Because of my interest in the restaurant industry, it was helpful for me to ask him questions and get insight into how to start and operate a restaurant,” Nelson said. “I wanted to learn how it was different from running other businesses.”
To educate students on business ventures, the LEAD participants attended two-hour classes about business sectors including marketing, supply chain and business information systems. The courses are taught by Lehigh professors who volunteered their time.
Participant Ike Nwosu said the students were exposed to new subjects that were not part of their high school curriculum. He said he loved learning about 3D printing at The Wilbur Powerhouse. He said the group was fascinated by what can be printed and that the resource was available on campus.
One of Nwosu’s favorite visits was to Martin Guitar in Nazareth, where he learned about the passion and hard work that goes into making every guitar.
Walker said the program also benefits current undergraduates who volunteer for the program because they get to network and visit many places in a short time, which they might not get the opportunity to do during the academic year.
Walker said students who attend LEAD learn about the opportunities at Lehigh. After last year’s program, she said, 10 of the 27 members applied to Lehigh.
Story by Madison Hoff