Sixty-three students representing 34 high schools and more than 20 cities learned about the dynamic world of business at the fifth annual DREAMBIG Academy held July 10-15 at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Administration. Sponsored by ConAgra Foods, the academy is designed to teach business, leadership and networking skills to students from across the state, expose them to future careers and prepare them for the college search.
“The DREAMBIG Academy empowers these high school seniors to envision how they can use business to achieve their goals,” said Dr. D’vee Buss, assistant dean for undergraduate programs. “We experience many firsts together in preparing for the next chapter in their life including making plans to go to college, developing new friendships and finding a mentor through the various connections made.”
While living in a UNL residence hall to get the full college experience, the students met with professors to discuss areas of business and career skills, explored different majors and college resources and discovered their strengths through hands-on projects. The students connected with a multitude of business professionals through a networking reception where more than 50 professionals shared insight and advice about their career, college and more. They also learned about opportunities within business through site visits with professionals at ConAgra, Firespring, Hudl, Target and Total Image, and volunteered with the People’s City Mission.
Milton Castanon of Grand Island, Nebraska, said he enjoyed getting to know students from all around Nebraska and learning from business professionals. He said the sense of community around college played a large role in making his experience beneficial.
“DREAMBIG is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The mentors, staff and faculty made the experience for me because you can tell they want us to succeed,” he said. “I learned so much from the great people I’ve gotten to meet. I realized how business is a part of everything and know it will be a part of my future.”
The academy concluded with a graduation celebration attended by more than 150 family members and guests. Students presented what they learned about leadership, strengths, business, ConAgra and the stock market. DREAMBIG mentors, UNL students who led and mentored a set of students throughout the week, recognized each student for their achievements, conveyed their strengths that stood out in different activities and shared the memories they helped create. The evening concluded with group photos, family introductions, hugs and promises to see each other soon.
Many students discussed in their closing presentation that they realized how business is interwoven in numerous aspects of their lives. Elaundra Nichols from Omaha, Nebraska, shared how gaining skills in business can help her achieve her goals.
“Studying business could help me fulfill my dream of running a non-profit because business touches everything. You need to know accounting to keep the books. You need marketing skills to connect with people. At the end of the day, you can gain so much knowledge and wisdom from studying business that it is worth it,” she said.
Recounting her DREAMBIG experience, Beatrice, Nebraska native Krystina Billesbach said the academy helps transform students like her into being ready to take the next step in fulfilling their life goals.
“This program gives students the opportunity they never had before – to come here for free and spend six days learning about business, UNL, leadership and ourselves. This is an opportunity we might not have gotten anywhere else,” Billesbach said. “Being surrounded by other students who have the same goals as me has been inspirational. We are here for the same reasons: we want to go to college, go into business and have a good life.”
DREAMBIG Academy webpage