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Sometimes, leaders are just regular people who step up when they have to, the room full of teenagers learned.
“Once you take that first step, you can build from there,” advised Lissa Leibson, a mentor in the Fleischer Scholars program at Arizona State University.
The teenagers who cheered her speech were attending a weeklong camp sponsored by the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU.
The high schoolers, who will be seniors in the fall, were selected for the all-expense-paid camp because they demonstrated that they have great potential but might not have the resources to be ready for college. Most of the 21 Fleischer Scholars in the June program would be the first in their families to attend college, and some are from low-income families, according to Danna Remillard, coordinator of admissions and special events at the W. P. Carey School of Business.
“What we look for is students who might not know that college is possible, or have as much access to college prep or college-readiness programs,” Remillard said, adding the average GPA of the group was 3.5. Another cohort of Fleischer Scholars will attend camp in July.
The students find out about majors, how to pay for college, early-admission requirements and anything else they’re curious about.
At a session on leadership, the high schoolers discussed their clubs and organizations, and what it takes to be a leader.
Leibson told the group how leadership can happen when they least expect it. She was secretary of her high school’s service club but was suddenly promoted when the president didn’t show up and she had to jump in and lead a meeting with a group of food-bank administrators.
“I was that person who liked to hide behind a computer. But I realized that if no one started the meeting, these kids wouldn’t get food,” said Leibson, now a junior in the W. P. Carey School of Business majoring in supply-chain management.
“I had never led a meeting in my life. I wondered, ‘Am I allowed to drink water?’ ”
She ended up organizing nine high schools in a citywide food drive in her hometown of Kansas City, Missouri.
The lead mentor in the June session was Samuel De La Ossa, a sophomore majoring in business communications.
De La Ossa was a Fleischer Scholar in 2014, just before his senior year at Marcos de Niza High School in the Tempe Union High School District.
“Did I think with my core GPA of 2.8 that I would get into W. P. Carey? Fleischer gave me the resources and everything I needed to get here,” he told the students.
De La Ossa said the mentorship connection is vital.
“The biggest thing I want them to take away is that they have a friend. This is a Fleischer family,” said De La Ossa, who is still friends with the mentors from his camp two years ago. “It works. We’re able to break through to these juniors and make sure they’re not nervous and give them the resources they need.”
Melanie Diaz (pictured in photo at top), who will be a senior at Sierra Linda High School in the Tolleson Union High School District, would be the first in her family to attend college.
“This camp has really opened my eyes to all the possibilities,” she said. “I didn’t know there were so many degrees you could go for.”
Of the 201 Fleischer Scholars since the first session in 2010, 70 percent have been admitted to ASU, Remillard said.
The program is funded by real-estate investor and entrepreneur Mort Fleischer and his wife, Donna Fleischer, who live in Scottsdale.
Because of Mort Fleischer’s background of success launching and selling various businesses, the camp promotes entrepreneurship. The teens and mentors form teams to create entrepreneurial projects together.
“We tell them to solve a problem in their world, and they come up with these great ideas,” Remillard said. Previous campers created a smartphone application to find medical advice and an after-school enrichment program.
“They really feel ownership of these projects. They’re in high school, and adults are trusting them to create something.”
Top photo: Melanie Diaz, who will be senior at Sierra Linda High School in Phoenix, talks about her leadership positions during a session of the Fleischer Scholars camp June 16 at Arizona State University. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now