Running a business is nothing new for Morgan Burk, one of two local high school students recently selected to participate in this year’s Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs.
Burk, a junior at Western Kentucky University’s Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky, oversees business operations at Morgan’s Fresh Cut Tree Lot on Nashville Road, a popular Christmas-time destination for families in search of the perfect fir, spruce, pine or cedar tree for hanging ornaments at home.
The mad rush begins after every Thanksgiving, and Burk hustles on subsequent weeknights and weekends to make a year’s worth of work pay off.
“We have to move all that product in four weeks,” she said.
So it should come as no shock that Burk was chosen to participate in the highly competitive Governor’s School. Program organizers are also hustling to create a worthwhile experience for students amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I feel like GSE was just a really good fit for me,” said Morgan, who’s most excited to meet like-minded students and tap into new resources for developing business plans. “I’m definitely very grateful and humbled.”
Alana Carpenter, a freshman at South Warren High School, also shares that excitement. She views the opportunity to network with other students and get coaching to sharpen her entrepreneurial skills as a way to help her community, she said.
“I really have a passion for helping people,” Alana said.
She dreams of becoming a doctor and has a passion for building awareness of mental health challenges people confront in their daily lives and the understanding that “it’s not something you can just push aside.”
The Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs brings students from across the state to Northern Kentucky University for a three-week residential program during the summer, a news release said.
During the program, teams of high school students learn to develop a business model, design a prototype and pitch their startup to a large audience and a panel of judges. The idea is to show students what it takes to bring a business concept to life and pitch it to potential investors. Several program alumni have gone on to launch their own small businesses.
This year, more than 300 high school students applied to participate in the program, and 72 were selected to receive full tuition scholarship opportunities, the release said.
In light of the pandemic, the residential program is undergoing some changes.
“While COVID-19 has brought new challenges for all of us, as entrepreneurs we love challenges,” Natasha Sams, GSE’s executive director, said in the release. “We know that entrepreneurs are needed now more than ever before, but above everything, we value the safety and well-being of our students. In the coming weeks, we will have a clearer idea of what GSE will look like this summer and we already have modified our dates in hopes of having an in-person summer experience.”
Alana said was recently informed the program would take on a more localized focus, with students checking in to share their progress and get support. It’s a change Alana isn’t disappointed about, she said.
“I think that’s amazing because it will be more for your community and what you do to help them,” she said. “Having a network of people that will be there to support me and help me through that is really cool.”
Regardless of what shape the program will take this year, Morgan is grateful for the opportunity to live out her values, she said.
“It’s about people’s broad ability to be innovative and creative,” she said.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.