With plans to turn a teachers' lounge into a full-fledged healthy café for students, a team from Santa Monica High School took first place at the fourth-annual Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) USA Competition Friday in New York.
The group will now head to China in August to compete in a 10-nation international competition at the SAGE World Cup in Shanghai.
"The healthy salad bar and café will be our third student-run business," said Teri Jones, a Santa Monica High teacher and the group's adviser. "The students already run the student store and parts of our cafeteria."
Nine high school teams traveled to New York from around the country to present their student projects before a panel of judges comprised of business and civic leaders.
"The teams all did a marvelous job of combining entrepreneurship with community service," said Curtis DeBerg, founder of the SAGE program. "The Santa Monica High School SAGE students ended up with the big trophy, but all eight high schools are winners. They exemplify what it means to be social entrepreneurs."
Each high school completed yearlong projects assisted by college mentors as well as local business advisers. The year ends with the SAGE awards where each school competes for the U.S. title. The winner then goes on to compete in an international competition.
"Competition is an incredible motivator," DeBerg said. "When high school students present their work in front of their peers, it's a form of problem-based learning." This type of hands-on methodology helps students experience real life problems as well as giving them the tools to solve them, according to DeBerg.
The students are judged on the creativity and innovation of their projects, and Santa Monica won the 2006 award by showing the judges their plan to transform a teachers' cafeteria into a new café with options for health-conscious students.
"Our students are very entrepreneurial and they all worked so well together," said Mary Kay McCray, another Santa Monica adviser. "We are just so proud of them."
Runners up in the competition included Idaho's Gem State Academy, California's Pleasant Valley High School, and Pennsylvania's Northwestern Lehigh High School.
SAGE actively recruits mentors, competition judges, as well as sponsors for their events. SAGE is in the process of expanding to give other high school students an opportunity to participate.
"Right now, SAGE is in six states and 10 countries," DeBerg said. "My goal for next year is to double the number of states, and add five more countries."
Other countries competing in the Aug. 3 SAGE World Cup include China, Ghana, the Philippines, Nigeria, South Africa, Russia, Ukraine, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan.