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S.C. Chamber offers ‘camp with a business concentration’

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The summer camp experience will take on a different meaning during the S.C. Chamber of Commerce’s Business Week, scheduled for July 24-29 at Presbyterian College in Clinton.

This year marks the 33rd year for the camp, where archery, crafts and campfires are replaced with sessions on basic business finance, ethics in business, leadership, diversity and entrepreneurship.

Ted Pitts, president and CEO of the state chamber, said “it’s like a summer camp with a business concentration.”

The camp for rising high school juniors and seniors provides an inside look at business in action and is “designed to educate the students on entrepreneurship and the American free enterprise system,” according to the camp’s student application form.

Pitts said about 200 students go through the program each year and represent an array of backgrounds. They are nominated by their respective school’s guidance counselor.

A number of businesses in the state volunteer time, Pitts said, including a variety of banks, Michelin, CH2M Hill, Savannah River Site and Colonial Life. Volunteers serve as company advisers and lead teams of students who work on projects toward starting a mock business, he said.

Thirty to 40 representatives from business, education and government make up the faculty for Business Week, and students will hear from experts in economics, diversity, communications, international business, management, and research and development.

Students also are instructed on soft skills, such as public speaking and how to do resumes, Pitts said.

At the conclusion of Business Week, four students will be awarded college scholarships totaling $17,000.

Welcome Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Courtney Capelli twice participated in S.C. Chamber of Commerce Business Week as a student, then participated two more years as a company adviser. And though her career path didn’t take her into the world of business, she said she gained a lot of experience and knowledge during the camp that is useful in any career.

“Team challenges reinforced the importance of teamwork and collaboration with others, and the diversity of each group encouraged the acceptance and appreciation of different viewpoints and experiences of others,” Capelli said.

A virtual business simulation activity is part of the weeklong experience for students, and Capelli said, “It required us to make difficult, time-sensitive decisions that naturally came with consequences, both positive and negative. All of these, and many more, have proved to be crucial skills in the teaching profession, and I know I’ll continue to use and strengthen each of them in any career I find myself in throughout my professional life.”

Capelli remembers always having an interest in someday attending the S.C. Chamber of Commerce Business Week, but early on it was more for the gifts she would get. When she was young, her father served as a company adviser at the camp “for as long as I could remember,” she said. He would bring home various souvenirs from Presbyterian College for Capelli and her siblings.

“I knew I wanted to go to business camp one day just to get more cool T-shirts and hot chocolate mugs,” she said. “It wasn’t until I was approaching high school that I began to seriously consider attending S.C. Business Week as a student. It didn’t take much to pique my interest in actually applying; after all, I had basically lived with a real-life personal brochure. I was excited to learn more about a potential career path and work with other students from across the state who I would most likely have otherwise never met.”

According to the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, the business camp started with 200 students in 1983. Total student attendance has since grown to more than 6,000. In addition:

  • 113 businesses and individuals contributed to Business Week in 2015, giving more than $133,500.
  • Since 1984, 600 business leaders have donated a week of their time.
  • Financial contributions since 1984 exceed $2,465,700.
  • From 2006 to 2015, a total of $108,000 in college scholarships was awarded to 33 students.

Reach Teresa Cutlip at 864-235-5677, ext. 103, or at SCBizTeresa on Twitter.

Reach Teresa Cutlip at 720-1223.

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