By Sarah Elms | BLADE STAFF WRITER Published on Oct. 4, 2017 | Updated 12:01 a. m.

First in a monthly series on the Young Executive Scholars program.

Selina Griswold split 13 Jones Leadership Academy students into two groups and gave them a challenge: Without speaking, line up alphabetically by last name.

The exercise kicked off a new program called Young Executive Scholars, a partnership with University of Toledo’s business college and Toledo Public Schools’ Jones Leadership Academy aimed at preparing high school juniors and seniors for the college and business worlds. The challenge was Ms. Griswold’s first lesson in collaborating. It demonstrated how leadership and creative thinking are key to solving problems.

Ms. Griswold, a UT associate professor of management, crafted the Young Executive Scholars program to teach Toledo high school students about business etiquette and leadership skills and to encourage them to pursue higher education. Wednesday’s lesson was the first in a series of monthly workshops that UT professors and community professionals will host for participating students throughout the academic year.

“What I hope to be able to show you is that there is a world of opportunity out there,” she told the students. “But if you don’t know how to interact in it, if you don’t act comfortable being there, if you don’t know what the opportunities are, then you short-change yourself.”

Participating students can expect to learn how to ace a job interview, the difference between business and casual attire, and how to network, among other skills.

“It’s helping me be a leader,” junior Dichelle Gordon, 16, said. “I don’t like to speak in front of people. I’m shy. This might help me get out of that comfort zone.”

Principal Ward Barnett said the series will give his students coaching that many adults would like to have.

“How often do we go into environments, and even as adults we’re going into it without any background? This gives them a leg up,” he said. “They’re going to be judged on these things, and to have them know how to interact with individuals, the way to dress, etiquette — it’s the little things that will make them stand out.”

Mr. Barnett was a student in Ms. Griswold’s mentorship program when he was at UT working to become a school principal. He said watching his students learn from his former teacher brings his education full-circle.

”For some of them, UT is 1,000 miles away. But this makes it tangible to them,” he said.

All 18 seniors at Jones Leadership Academy are on track to graduate, he said. It’s the school’s first graduating class, and they’ve all filled out applications to UT. Should they be accepted and choose to enter the college of business, Ms. Griswold will match them up with successful current UT students to help them graduate.

“It’s like a success pipeline, from one high school of business to a college of business,” Mr. Barnett said.

Senior Tearle Spears Jr., 18, said he wants to study criminal justice when he goes to college, but he is grateful to be learning business skills in case he needs something different to fall back on.

His peer, Tre’von Shelmon, 17, does want to pursue a career in business once he graduates and said he is happy to get a leg up through Ms. Griswold’s program.

“It can put us ahead of other people,” he said. “The world is mostly business nowadays, so it gives us a head start.”

Senior Tyler Huff, 17, said he’ll study anything that will help him land a well-paying job out of high school or college. Ms. Griswold said that’s the ultimate goal.

“That is one of the purposes of this program, to make sure that when you go to college or when you step into a job, that you are comfortable, that you are walking in with the leadership and the mindset to be competitive,” she said. 

Contact Sarah Elms at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.