Youth entrepreneurs learning and leading

The Financial Education Week’s
International Youth Entrepreneurship Competition
at Alliant International University
in San Diego


28 high school honor students
11 county high schools
5 university professors
1 week of :



1st: Raul Escobar
The Charter School of San Diego
2nd: Brandon Hernandez
Sweetwater High School
3rd: Sam Wisotsky
High Tech High School
4th: Ian Larson (tied)
Patrick Henry High School
4th: Mariana Meneses (tied)
Olympian High School

By Miguel Vasquez, CEO of the California Foundation Fund

These young entrepreneurs were unaware that week would help them understand their strengths and fortify their dreams for making a better life.

Growing numbers of college graduates are opting to start a business venture after graduation. Studies show that up to 35% of graduates are taking the risks and rewards of business ownership. The US Small Business Administration agency has indicated a majority of start-up businesses will fail within the first two years. The reasons vary from lack of capital, cash flow errors, not understanding the industry and most importantly from a lack of desire.
The lack of desire was not one of the deficits from a group of twenty eight students that attended the Financial Education Week’s International Youth Entrepreneurship Scholarship Competition at Alliant International University. (The Financial Education Week is a community based service and a vision of the Mexican Consul of San Diego and Mayor Ron Morrison of the City of National City.)
These eager and willing students were excused for three days from high school to learn, at a university level, how to become better leaders and successful business owners. Five university professors from Alliant taught 18 hours of business administration lessons in everything from social media to accounting. Eleven San Diego County Schools participated in this widely promoted event.
The event was promoted through 17 radio interviews, 5 television interviews, 2 press releases, 1 press conference, 6 news articles, 4 Facebook pages, and hundreds of tweets. Every effort to get the word out was deployed. The San Diego County Office of Education, Sweetwater School District superintendent, principals, teachers, and counselors were recruited to make the public aware that this type of opportunity doesn’t come around every day.

Linda is Carmen Cifuentes daughter that attends Valley Center High School.

Special guest speakers such as Ruben Garcia from the US SBA, Ivan Sandoval from Wells Fargo and Alex Montoya from the San Diego Padres shared their knowledge. Alex Montoya and one of the youngest student, Linda, made a real impact on the entire event. Linda and Alex are both Colombian immigrants and faced with incredible challenges and opportunities. Many people know Alex’s story from his book, Swing for the Fences, and how he was born without arms and only one leg. It is also known how he has turned this challenge into an opportunity to do great things. What was not known was Linda’s story.
Not very long ago Linda was adopted and immigrated from Colombia. She is currently learning her environment and the English language. Linda is faced with a problem no one, much less a teenager, should face. Linda is being treated for cancer and has to make choices that are not common for a fifteen year old.
It was Linda’s wish to attend the Alliant International University Entrepreneurship Program and compete with high school seniors from 10 other San Diego county schools. Linda recruited her sister Raquel, a straight A student, to help her with this strenuous university level course that was taught in a language Linda did not fully comprehend.

Linda and Alex reminded me that life is full of opportunities and that we must connect with our strengths to never give up on who we are and what we want to become.

Linda and her sister have been molding their hobby of jewelry making into an entrepreneurial project. Even though these sisters were too young to take part of the awards competition, a special exception was made to allow Linda and Raquel to take part of every other aspect of the program. With this education, Linda hopes she and her sister will learn how to become successful entrepreneurs. Soon after attending the Youth Entrepreneurship Scholarship Competition, Linda’s story of strength and selflessness was told on TV. SEE More
The winner of the of the competition, Raul, has a story that is just as special. He was almost disqualified and just 3 years ago was deported from this country. Everyone should read his story and how he was apprehended by undercover border patrol agents and sent off to a country he had never lived in.

More: an absolutely true story of being deported at age 14.

Everyone that attended the competition learned a new life lesson. The students, staff, faculty and supporters demonstrated their commitment to our community and showed that it takes collaborative work to be successful.

Any part of this article may be used freely with the condition that the author Miguel Vasquez, CEO of the California Foundation Fund be credited.