When Hopkinton High School rising senior Vihaan Agarwal and some friends noticed a lack of offerings related to finance and entrepreneurship at the middle school level, they decided to do something about it.
They founded the Hopkinton Youth Business Academy, which offered sessions the past two summers, with enrollment ranging from 25-30 students.
In addition to finance and entrepreneurship, topics like marketing and leadership were included.
“Our goal was twofold: to spark an interest in professions related to these fields and help students use these concepts in everyday life,” Agarwal said.
The business camp sessions were held at the Hopkinton Public Library and ran for two hours each weekday for a total of 10 hours. All classes were free.
The first class featured a presentation about stocks and the banking system along with a stock market simulation activity.
Subsequent classes covered leadership, marketing and communications, IRAs and personal finance and a lesson about entrepreneurship followed by students coming up with ideas and pitching them.
Ash Sridhar, who is starting his sophomore year at HHS, explained that the academy is not a school-related activity or part of a club experience. Instead, it evolved from a group of friends having the desire to spread their knowledge on these topics to younger kids.
In addition to teaching the core skills of business, the sessions had interactive activities to keep the middle school participants (ages 11-14/incoming freshmen) interested.
“We hope to build their understanding of credit scores, money borrowing, interest, taxes —things that are not usually taught but are important,” Sridhar said.
Sridhar said the leaders focused on making the experience fun for kids and allowing them to challenge themselves through activities.
“They were really engaged and keen on competing,” Sridhar observed during the session held earlier in August.
Business camp participant Rishit Lalchandani especially liked the creative activities and awards, finding them “really exciting for me and my friends.”
“I would highly suggest this camp for beginners who are inclined in learning and gaining financial knowledge in a fun and interactive manner,” Lalchandani said.
Another participant, Prannav Raja, had a similar experience.
“I learned different ways to make money,” Raja said. “For example, by investing in stocks, buying bonds and putting money into IRA plans.”
Raja said the best part of business camp was being able to learn important things in a fun way with friends.
“We played many games that taught us how to invest in stocks, market products and more,” Raja added. “It helps you understand things such as becoming an entrepreneur.”
To attract “campers,” Sridhar noted that the coordinators went door-to-door talking to parents about the importance of young people learning these topics. They also relied on social media to get the word out.
Sridhar added that the camp also helps prepare middle school kids for when they become high school students.
“It builds interest going into high school where there are a lot of outlets to exercise your interests,” he said.
In addition to Sridhar and Agarwal, Veer Bhatia and Dhruv Shah, both incoming sophomores, helped run the camp.