By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2015 BH Media Group Holdings, Inc
It’s not unusual for someone to walk into our offices that we don’t know. We invite entrepreneurs to come to us for advice. We host events. We have partnering relationships with many other organizations in the entrepreneurial space.
What is unusual is for that someone to be a high school student, knocking on our door, looking for an internship opportunity. That’s exactly what happened last year in our Tulsa office when Hayden Allen, a senior at Cascia Hall Preparatory School, stopped by.
Hayden had a lifelong dream to compete to become a mechanical engineer. He competed in international science fairs and had always had the desire to create and innovate.
“I get to experience these miraculous advances in technology that individuals my age come up with,” he told us. “Once I discovered the concept of entrepreneurship and figured out there was a noun for people like me — entrepreneurship — I wanted to learn more.”
The high school Hayden has attended had a program encouraging juniors and seniors to go into the community for one-month internships. After a series of interviews, Hayden joined us for about 20 hours a week.
Hayden took the internship chance and ran with it. He sat in due diligence meetings as we were evaluating companies and absorbed and observed what we do and how we do it. He performed project work — market analysis and other projects.
In Hayden’s words, he was “immediately welcomed into the i2E family. Because of their actions, my understanding of the entrepreneurship process has become concrete.”
We all learned from the experience.
It is always good to get a fresh perspective on what we are doing and what is going on around us. It was also great to see our impact on the entrepreneurial community through Hayden’s eyes.
Hayden offered this unsolicited assessment of our efforts: “The dedication, commitment, and encouragement to the Tulsa entrepreneurial community that i2E brings forth is astonishing. I would not have thought that such drive to improve the surrounding community would have been present.
“I am beyond thrilled to have spent the month of January at i2E. I worked on as many projects as I could; I loved every second of it. There was not a minute passed that I wasn’t involved in some way. This experience has opened many doors for me and has solidified my desire to become an entrepreneur.”
We caught up with Hayden again this week. He’s in the second half of his freshman year at the University of Tulsa. He’s majoring in mechanical engineering just like he always planned — and he’s on nearly full scholarship.
We asked Hayden how he felt now, a year later, about his i2E experience.
“Looking back, it’s exactly what I thought it was,” he said. “I’d had jobs before, all different types of jobs. I’ve been a cashier. I’ve been a coach. But until i2E, I never felt 100 percent part of the team. When I was at i2E, I wanted to do my best. My ideas meant something, even though I was just 17 at the time. That builds lots of character. It touched me as a person and shaped me into the man I am today.”
Oklahoma needs all the “Haydens” we can raise — bright young people who love science, choose to major in technical subjects and have the entrepreneurial bug.
They are our future.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.