African aid project attracts impressive attention
Students get face time with business leaders
Louise Clements was surrounded by students fromWestwood Sr. High School last week when talking about how to effectively spread the word about an African school project.
And if anyone knows how to network, it’s Clements. Head of sales for Facebook Canada, Clements was one of four business people to attend a one night student leadership workshop focusing on Westwood’s Bridge to Burundi project.
The business people - some flew in for the event from Toronto, or Vancouver, while others came from Montreal - were there to share their business savvy with students.
But it was often the VPs and CEOs who were impressed.
The kids have formed a registered nonprofit organization and are raising money to build - at a cost of about $10,000 per room - a six room school house in the African village of Rwoga, located in Burundi.
So far, their money has built one complete room and funded half of a second.
Both are expected to open to 80 elementary students next September.
Passing it on
Steve Allmen, VP of Business Development for Aeroplan Canada, admitted he was ‘‘blown away’’ by the students.
‘‘Most teens I know play video games and eat cereal all day,’’ he said.
Allmen advised the students about networking and creating loyalty contacts. He also stressed the importance of paying it forward by sharing their passion with younger students.
They look up to you and will want to be like you, he noted.
ScottWalker, president & C.E.O. of The Walker Group, a company that provides niche products like insurance programs and governance services to such companies as American Express, Toyota, Lexus, and Whirlpool, told students his door would always be open.
‘‘The beauty of this is that you guys are doing all of this yourselves, so we’re just here to help you help yourselves,’’ Walker, who is also head of the Young Presidents Organization, said.
In addition, Walker Group business development manager Jean Poirier shared his knowledge during the camp that took place at the Hudson Community Centre.
Students, who paid $50 to attend the night, later slept at their high school where they played games like flashlight tag in the empty corridors.
Bigger than expected
Student Lindsay Peets admitted the project had grown larger than anyone expected.
‘‘When we first thought of (getting) corporate sponsors, we were thinking about local stores and businesses,’’ she said.
And while they welcome all forms of aid, she admits the high-profile mentoring has students thinking big.
‘‘We can really do this and make a huge difference along the way.’’
Westwood teacher Dave Benwell hopes the expert advice will help students perfect a project presentation they’re expected to make next month to the Canadian International Development Agency in Ottawa.
CIDA funding could go a long way toward helping them realize their goals. A small group of students are expected to make the pitch and it is believed this will be the first time the development agency will hear a presentation from students.