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Middle Schoolers Visit HBS For a Day

Impact Initiative at HBS reaches out to local youth

By Tara W. Merrigan, Crimson Staff Writer

At Harvard Business School yesterday, 63 students discussed a case study on Coca-Cola’s pricing, a typical Business School classroom activity—but undertaken this time by seventh graders from the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester.

This visit comprises one component of the Business School’s Impact Initiative, a community service program launched earlier this year by the Business School Student Association, the school’s student government.

The initiative aims to make a positive impact on the lives of Boston-area middle school students and instill leadership skills through education and mentorship.

Through this program, the Business School also hosted 43 seventh-grade students from the James P. Timilty Middle School in Roxbury earlier this month.

“These types of initiatives help students break out of the business school bubble, interact with the people they will one day serve, and better understand the world from the perspective of all people, making them a more compassionate and effective leader,” said Business School alumnus Jonathan Doochin, who first conceived of the initiative.

In September, 120 first-year Business School students went to the Frederick Pilot and Timilty Schools to introduce the students to the initiative’s leadership curriculum.

Gail A. Brown, a teacher at Frederick Pilot, recalled how that visit inspired her seventh graders to assume leadership roles. After the September event, two of her students, Nakeo Murray and Gabriela Reyes, ran for and were elected to the school’s student council, according to Brown.

“When the HBS students came to the Pilot and gave out mirrors to the kids to show them that they were leaders, it really made an impression on them,” Brown said. “The students, and especially Nakeo, looked in the mirror and saw that they could be leaders.”

Aja J. Jackson, Frederick Pilot School administrator, said that the Impact Initiative provides Frederick Pilot students with a unique chance to learn more about higher education.

“Many of these students don’t have opportunities to be exposed to much outside of their community,” said Jackson. “This visit to HBS will plant seeds in their mind that they can earn a higher education degree and be a professor, business leader, or Harvard graduate.”

In addition to the case study, the middle school students participated in a question and answer session with Business School Professor David A. Thomas, who fielded questions about his education and becoming a professor.

Thomas recounted his path to success and how he overcame the challenges of growing up as an African-American in a Missouri family of modest means during the civil rights movement, a story which Brown said inspired her students.

Business School Professor Zeynep Ton, who led the Coca-Cola case discussion, said that this program also presents Business School students with an opportunity to engage with their surrounding community.

“The mission of the Harvard Business School is to educate leaders to make a difference in the world,” Ton said. “This initiative fulfills that mission. This program is a chance for our students to go into different communities and be inspired, and also make a big impact.”

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