Last week, I felt envy toward a 6th grader. Now before you wonder why a college student would be jealous of a child, I will tell you that it lasted for about a minute before it turned to awe. With 45 minutes of training, one yellow school bus, and twenty boxed lunches to fuel them, a group of 8-14 year old Micro Citizens from South Philly’s Andrew Jackson Elementary learned about, launched and made an impressive profit margin on a variety of business ventures. All inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This mini-Micro experience was part of Philadelphia’s Minority Enterprise Development(MED)-Week, an event that brought together current and hopeful entrepreneurs, government officials, and business leaders alike all from the “City of Brotherly Love”. Health and Fitness was a particularly popular venture. Who would have thought that customers would line up and pay to have their blood pressure taken and their Body Mass Index (BMI) measured? By kids nonetheless! But it happened. I was a witness.
As I made my way through the Marketplace these students had put together just minutes before, I noticed something huge. All of them positioned at their little battle stations, armed with artwork, jewelry, and lotions, the student business owners, managers, bankers, travel agents, personal trainers, and dieticians held their ground. They were proud. They knew their stuff. And this was visible to the barrage of adults, all in suits, who poured into the small space where the MicroSociety had been erected. They stood back and welcomed the kids taking the lead. Many of the shops sold out. Managers recorded their profits and reconciled their accounts. Employees devised ways to continue to draw in customers. The conversation between adult and child made it difficult to distinguish who was who.
I however, was envious; envious of a single essence, a single spark each of the MicroSociety citizens held within, one which I can’t claim to possess. Each child was an ardent salesperson; truly unstoppable. Every second explanations of products were shared with visitors, items flew off the small tables; it was a magnificent sight. And in this show of expertise, I recognized that these children, these 3rd to 6th graders, had a set of skills I could scarcely even dream of beginning to grasp. They knew how to sell and purchase goods, manage shops, and exchange funds. They were confident. They were leaders. These incredibly young children knew how to live, a concept I, as a College student, am just beginning to experience.
But more of my feelings later. What was truly incredible about this experience, besides the successful marketplace, was what occurred once the visiting entrepreneurs had departed.These young people did not goof off. They did not ask when the bus was coming to pick them up. Instead, these MicroSociety kids all began purchasing the remaining goods, and calculating their own BMI’s at the wellness center. The small Micro economy kept thriving.
It is evident that MicroSociety is real life! MicroSociety is not akin to something like a school club or sport, an activity which has its allotted time, that starts and ends, or an expendable hobby that is just as readily picked up as it is dropped to the wayside. MicroSociety’s roots go far deeper…MicroSociety’s influence really touches the very fiber of a student’s life. MicroSociety remains with them throughout life, bestowing a bright ember of knowledge and passion on students, which, much to my own dismay, I have never had the pleasure to experience.
And so, I was a little jealous, and what’s more, I felt cheated. Cheated because these children knew how to begin and sustain a business whereas I, a 19-year-old, have never even thought about starting my own business, have only a vague idea of what such a process entails, and am completely lost when it comes to product development. Cheated because at such a young age these elementary students have crafts, careers, and lifestyles to love and hone. From what I saw, all the children were extremely passionate about their Micro work, and all had ownership in it. Oh, the sweet feeling each child must have when his product, one of his own creation, is visibly appreciated by another. I’ve scarcely ever had such a feeling aside from parental praise… the children at thisMicroSociety event received more praise for their work from strangers in a day then I’ve received in a lifetime.
There is within every child an inherent desire to learn, to do. I can attribute this to none other than the presence of MicroSociety. As a product of traditional schooling I have not received the same education, the same gift the MicroSociety kids have. I did not learn how to discover and hone my passions or how to function in society. I learned to memorize short answers teachers fed me, to recall and write them on a piece of paper, never to glance at them again. Such schooling has left me with nothing but cynicism and nihilistic tendencies, as well as a consistent struggle with career options and passions; an issue I’m certain these children will not encounter in the future. They know their roles and they are varied. All are imbued with passion and ownership, and all hold on to theirMicroSociety livelihood tightly.
Tonight, as I write this, I feel lucky for the lessons I learned on October 4th. My teachers, the children, were unexpected ones. Maybe I should have collected autographs. Although they would have charged me for sure and I don’t have enough Micros for that. Yet.