Creating Leaders through Economics

When Gau stepped off the plane he could barely contain himself. He couldn’t wait to see his teacher, Carol Mathias - and he could not stop smiling. Gau started talking a mile a minute as Mrs. Mathias, The Career Academy’s embedded Econ/Psych instructor met him at the gate. “Thank you, thank you! It was such an amazing experience. I learned so much – and it has changed me. I can’t thank you enough.”

At the Foundation, we love making experiences like this a reality for kids – and our generous donors are the ones who do the heavy lifting. Without The Career Academy’s Experiences Fund, Gau and his classmate Kessa, who also attended an Economics for Leaders (EFL) Conference, would not have been able to have this key experience in their lives. It is something they both will look at as a turning point.

It all began with a caring teacher who saw an opportunity, and a homework assignment blossomed into a life-changing experience for Gau Ayaj and Kessa Rogers. Mrs. Mathias, wanted to challenge her students, so she had them complete the application for the conference. She knew the application process alone would force them to truly reflect on themselves and their goals in life, and she knew what an amazing experience it could be if they were chosen to attend.

Economics For Leaders is a summer program for high school students that changes the way they look at the world. It is supported by leading universities all across the nation, and admission is highly competitive. Once Gau and Kessa were accepted, Carol did everything she could to help them attend, including reaching out to the Foundation for LPS for support. Jumping on board right away, the Foundation was able to sponsor Gau and Kessa’s EFL experience. This example of “Next-Level Learning” enables students to participate in enriching activities that are outside the school system.

They learned about concepts like compromise and the vital role it plays within economics and leadership, “Vulnerability is a big piece of it” Kessa expressed, “that’s what creates trust.” Bringing people with different backgrounds and viewpoints together is important to learn how to work as a team, which has wider implications for society. “I can’t say enough how much this has made an impression on me. I came back a completely different person. I was brighter, more positive.”

Kessa attends Northeast High School and TCA in the Health Sciences pathway. She plans to finish at TCA and transfer credits to UNL where she will study Dentistry. Her ultimate goal is to become an orthodontist.

Gau attends Northeast High School and TCA in the Engineering pathway. He and his family moved to Lincoln from Sudan and Egypt in 2004 when he was five years old. He is interested in possibly attending school at UCLA or Denver.

Supporting experiences for students like Kessa and Gau is important, and something we love to work towards with our donors – matching their philanthropic passions to student need. When our community comes together, great opportunities can happen for students – and that’s pretty special.