New dreams for students after US experience

00:00, May 15 2014
Bede Blatchford and Liam Ellis were the two standout students on a whirlwind Palmerston North Boys’ High commerce trip to the United States.

The New York Stock Exchange, Google and the United Nations are no longer just in the imagination of budding Palmerston North Boys' High School businessmen after a whirlwind school trip to the United States gave them a taste of the American dream.

For the two standouts identified from the competitive sightseeing trip, year 13 students Liam Ellis and Bede Blatchford, mixing it with the bigwigs in Silicon Valley and New York was a life-changing experience.

The 18-day trip that spanned Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York was filled with talks and sightseeing but it was not all play for the 40 students who went.

Ellis and Blatchford - who are both considering commerce degrees at Auckland University next year - excelled in the two major tasks given to the students during the trip.

The first was a case study of a business that wanted to expand and open itself up to new markets. Split into groups of five, everyone in the group had to speak during a 10-minute pitch to the company's employees.

The second was to come up with a new type of pie for a shop on the edge of a university and make a 30-second video advertising it.


Ellis, who wants to go into management or marketing, said everyone on the trip had a dash of entreprenurialism about them but many had altered their plans based on what they had enjoyed most on the trip.

For Blatchford that was a visit to the home of one of the most powerful cogs in the world economy.

"To get a photo outside the New York Stock Exchange - you see it on movies and in newspapers and on TV but to actually be in front of it - was a real life-changing moment for me," said Blatchford, who has dreams of being an investment banker.

Palmerston North Boys' High School old boy and Massey business graduate Reuben Prier, who now is a foreign exchange options analyst in New York, spoke to them about the power of perseverance, having struggled to get a job for a number of months when moving overseas.

In New York the students were also spoken to by ex-financial whiz at Microsoft and General Motors and current Xero board chairman Chris Liddell, who has recently decided to distribute $100 million to major education and environment initiatives in New Zealand.

"It really made us sit up and think that we shouldn't be afraid to take on the world," Ellis said. "It was a great way for the guys to interact with what we might be up against if we went over there for real. It makes it all a bit more possible."

Former prime minister and now United Nations development programme manager Helen Clark spoke of the importance of teamwork, while founder of Wildfire and Bulls export Victoria Ransom gave a talk about her rise to stardom in Silicon Valley that has seen her become one of New Zealand's richest women.

"She was pretty humble for how much money she has got," Ellis said.

"We were expecting her to be in a Porsche or something but she drives around in this little electric car."

The trip was organised by Boys' High head of commerce Graham Black as a way for the students to experience the industry first-hand, beyond textbooks.

Manawatu Standard