21st-century forum draws crowd, teaches

About 800 area high school students gathered at UCCS to hear and learn how they can begin to work toward their career dreams.
About 800 area high school students gathered at UCCS to hear and learn how they can begin to work toward
their career dreams.

The next generation of entrepreneurs, investment bankers, scientists and doctors attended the 21st Century Skills Forum on Jan. 10 at UCCS.

About 800 high school students from six local districts, including Woodland Park, converged on the campus to hear keynote speaker Kent Fortune, vice president and general manager of USAA’s Springs campus, and attend two workshops of their choice.

Instructors from local colleges and businesses taught dozens of workshops with topics such as “Forensic Science: The role of technology in crime scene investigation”; “Free People, Free Markets: How and why market-based economics works”; and “Put Your Best Brain Forward: Making your own psychology work for you.”

Presented by Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado Inc., UCCS, Colorado Technical University and Pikes Peak Community College, the annual 21st Century Skills Forum offered core subjects with 21st-century themes, such as government and civics, arts, science, history and mathematics, in addition to interdisciplinary themes, including environmental literacy, global awareness and financial, economic, and business literacy.

Kent Fortune, general manager of USAA, talks about ethics.
Kent Fortune, general manager of USAA, talks about ethics.

Fortune began his speech about ethics by acknowledging that adults lately hadn’t provided much of an example for students, especially in the financial services industry, citing Bernie Madoff for that industry and Lance Armstrong for sports. He quoted Aristotle: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

After giving students his “simple explanation” of ethics: “What do you do when no one is looking?” Fortune gave real-life examples of ethical and unethical behavior, later telling the crowd, “A business’ reputation can make or break them. The things people think about a company can affect it … and the stock prices.”

After attending the “Unleash Your Inner Inventor” workshop, D-11 student Thomas Watkins said it was interesting.

“The whole premise was the ability to unleash your inner inventor by getting enough sleep, eating right and using your perception more,” he said. Students learned that “You only use 7 percent of your brain for perception and short-term memory,” Watkins said.

So the instructor told them which foods and chemicals to avoid to increase brain power — sugars, trans fats, recreational drugs, alcohol and tobacco — and which essential chemicals and foods to eat (B vitamins, amino acids and capsaicin, turkey) for better sleep.

Across campus in his “Do You Think Like an Entrepreneur?” workshop, Warren Munick of the economics faculty at Pikes Peak Community College told students about his experiences in 1993, working with members of the Crips and Bloods gangs in Los Angeles, in a pilot program for entrepreneurs. With his mentoring, gang members designed and marketed athletic apparel.

“Ever since then, I’ve encouraged people to think and act like entrepreneurs,” Munick told the students.

After handing out clickers so students could answer anonymously, Munick gave the group an “entrepreneurial-quotient” test with 20 questions, such as: “Are you an optimist?”; “Are you willing to spend your savings to start a business?”; “Are you easily bored?”; “Are you willing to borrow money to start a business?” and “If your business failed, would you start another or go get a job?”

Results were displayed on a screen — only a few people ranked as entrepreneurs.

He spoke of disadvantages and how they affect people differently. “This is what differentiates the entrepreneur from the rest — they can spot a problem and see a solution,” Munick said.

At the end of Munick’s workshop, a couple of students ventured to say what businesses they want to start: one a bakery, and the other training animals in search and rescue. And they likely could succeed — making a respectable bridge between lemonade stands and the next über-tech startup gone global.