by Alyssa Schoeneman
Selling lemonade isn’t just child’s play anymore – at least, not when it is done as a part of Lemonade Day.
The University of Illinois Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership (AEL) brought Lemonade Day, a program that introduces kids to entrepreneurship, to Champaign County for the first time in 2010.
The national event encourages youths in grades k-12 to start lemonade stands and sell to their communities on the first Sunday in May of each year, the official Lemonade Day. These youths must design and manage their booths, create lemonade recipes and decide how to spend or donate their profits.
In Champaign County, University students are also invited to participate in Lemonade Day; the AEL created a Community Entrepreneurship Certificate program to get James Scholars (honors students) and others involved.
As a part of this initiative, students attended a series of entrepreneurship-focused sessions in the late fall and spring, providing a learning component on entrepreneurship and social ventures to complement their community service. In addition to sessions with AEL staff, and Ann Abbott, Assistant Professor, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, and AEL Faculty Fellow, University of Illinois at Chicago’s Professor Deirdre McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of economics, history, English and communication, gave an engaging presentation to faculty and students on March 30.
Illinois senior finance major and James Scholar Dan Boduch attended the lectures, and said he was excited to bring Lemonade Day to his hometown after learning about it in Champaign.
“I jumped at the opportunity to get involved with Lemonade Day because it seemed like such a fun event for kids,” Boduch said. “This was a program I thought would teach kids valuable lessons like responsibility early on…it could teach all sorts of things that I thought could help younger kids moving forward.”
Boduch worked with his former boss at the Geneva Park District to organize and implement Geneva’s Lemonade Day. They had about 50 participants total.
“The first day that we were signing kids up to register for the event was the most exciting part for me,” Boduch said. “I had the registration [website] open in my browser while I was in my classes so I could watch the ticker go up when people were signing up. It was nice to know that my hard work was paying off.”
Other Illinois students solicited prize donations from local businesses, for the best tasting lemonade and best stand competitions. Shane Carlin, Vice Chancellor in Student Affairs, coached students on their interactions with business owners.
UI junior finance major Matt Weglarz got involved with Lemonade Day as a part of his Spring 2011 James Scholar project as well.
Weglarz distributed pamphlets at the Champaign YMCA and at grocery stores to spread the word about the event to youths and their parents.
“I tried to pitch [Lemonade Day] to the kids…asking, ‘Is there a game you want to buy or something you want to raise money for?’,” Weglarz explained. “When I talked to kids in the target age group, a lot of them were really excited about it.”
Assistant College of Business Dean for James Scholars Collette Niland explained that Lemonade Day is a great opportunity for James Scholars to fulfill their community service and leadership requirements in a way that benefits the community’s youth.
College of Applied Health Sciences Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs Renique Kersh said she supports Niland’s recruitment efforts; Kersh is enthusiastic about getting students of all ages involved with Lemonade Day.
Kersh’s oldest son, John, participated in Lemonade Day for the first time as a preschooler in 2010 and saw a lot of support from his teachers, family and friends. By the time Lemonade Day 2011 rolled around, John was an experienced salesman and had become somewhat of a local celebrity, Kersh joked.
“I see a lot of potential in the community for the program,” Kersh said. “I hope the community sees how important it is to come out and support the kids, and realizes how much programs like this can help our kids learn important life skills.”