Junior Achievement students toured the Otis test and research facility. (Photo credit: Michael Benson)
This year’s JA Global Connection brings together 20 students from China and 16 from Connecticut to collaborate on educational projects and learn about business leadership, ethics and culture in the international workplace. The program transforms the teens into entrepreneurs and provides them the opportunity to manufacture and sell a product that will generate profits and create a return for investors.
The five-day program kicked off with an opening ceremony on Monday, Aug.10, at the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford to welcome the Chinese exchange students from Shanghai, along with students from Wallingford and Cheshire, Connecticut. The ceremony featured speeches from local leaders, including U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut); Secretary of State Denise Merrill; and Jill Albertelli, Vice President, NGPF-30K Programs, Pratt & Whitney.
“United Technologies Corporation is proud of its long-standing partnership with Junior Achievement and is excited to support the continued growth of this innovative and successful program,” said Albertelli. “Through our commitment to advancing STEM education, UTC seeks to inspire students and develop the next generation of engineers, scientists and professionals. It is our hope that this partnership and program builds on that commitment and encourages these students to pursue careers in those fields.”
“We are delighted to host this innovative and dynamic student exchange program,” said Lou Golden, President of JA of Southwest New England. “It is critical for students to learn firsthand about the global economy. By working together, the students from both countries will advance their understanding of the cultures and dynamics which fuel global marketplaces and will be better prepared for the jobs opportunities ahead.”
Following the opening ceremony, particapants were split into teams of six, each featuring a mix of Chinese and American students. Together, student teams attended seminars, workshops and team-building sessions to begin collaborating and to learn about product development processes.
On Tuesday, the students attended a series of lectures by local entrepreneurs at Yale University in New Haven and were inspired to think creatively about their products. The students conducted market research and a “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats” (SWOT) analysis to narrow down their product options.
Throughout the week, students fully developed a product and its accompanying business plan. They also had opportunities for some fun. On Wednesday, after finalizing their product selections, students were treated to pizza and bowling and were given time to learn more about each other’s countries and cultures. In the afternoon, students toured an Otis test and research facility and learned about the innovative processes used to create state-of-the-art elevators.
“It was very exciting to visit Otis and talk face-to-face with Otis senior management and engineers,” said Shirley Qi, a student at No.2 High School, affiliated with Tongji University, Shanghai. “This was my first visit to a company and it was so cool. I enjoyed it very much. I cannot believe an elevator could have so many innovative ideas. Thanks to all the Otis volunteers for giving us such a great experience.”
By Thursday, students began preparations for their final presentations and determined their overall product production and sales plans. That afternoon, Chinese students were introduced to “America’s Favorite Pastime,” at a Rock Cats baseball game in New Britain.
On the final day, students presented their business plans and product proposals as the culmination of their weeklong collaboration. Students then attended a closing banquet and party to celebrate the conclusion of the stateside portion of the exchange program. Throughout the coming school year, the students will remain in contact as they continue working on their projects and will meet again when the American students travel to China next summer.
The first JA Global Connection took place two years ago when a group of 20 Chinese students spent a week in Connecticut working alongside student peers from Wallingford High School. Last year, those Connecticut students visited China to reconnect with their Global Connection counterparts and complete their projects.
“Witnessing innovation is one of the greatest motivators,” said Connecticut student Thomas Neal. “Junior Achievement and UTC are giving us the opportunity not only to achieve our goals, but to strive for more. We have been given the chance to break cultural boundaries and share ideas from new perspectives."
The JA Global Connection program is organized in conjunction with Junior Achievement China, based in Beijing, China, and Junior Achievement of Southwest New England, based in Hartford