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Students who strive to make a difference in business

SIX Shanghai high school teams will compete for the state championships for SAGE this weekend. Zhang Qian goes back to school.

Students from six high schools in Shanghai will try out their entrepreneurial talents on Saturday. The winning team will represent China at the global final of SAGE - Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship - in Brasilia.

SAGE is an international network linking teams of secondary school students with nearby university students, business leaders and civic leaders. It aims to help create the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders whose innovations and social enterprises will address the major needs of the global community.

The annual SAGE tournament started in the US in 1997 and is an interscholastic competitive model similar to athletics. Each team presents the results of their year-long activities to a panel of judges. The SAGE team rated the highest becomes the SAGE champion. The state SAGE champion will participate in the global final to be the world champion. There are also several sponsored special prizes with bonuses like the prizes for social responsibility and environmental awareness.

Nineteen countries and regions including China participated in the tournament this year, and six Shanghai high school teams will compete for the state championship this weekend. The spirit of entrepreneurship, social responsibility, public good and profitability are the four key criteria for assessment.

The high school SAGE teams are encouraged to use all the available resources in their communities. Two extremely valuable resources are successful business, civic and education leaders to serve on their Business Advisory Board, and college/university students who can serve as business consultants and mentors.

At the tournament, each team will make a 30-minute live presentation to a panel of business experts. This presentation will describe how the team's activities meet the assessment criteria.

"It is so exciting to work as an entrepreneurial team," says 17-year-old Shen Keyang, leader of the Shanghai No. 2 High School team that is participating in the tournament this year. "Though I wasn't that confident at first, I got increasingly drawn to the feeling of being capable of making a change."

The 20-member team has spent almost all of its spare time discussing and carrying out activities since the team was founded last September. With the help of the SIFE team of Zhejiang University and the "Mengxiangjia" business group, the high school students have completed four projects so far, including saying good morning to passengers with a smile on the one-year countdown to the World Expo 2010, protecting 20,000 white magnolias from being destroyed by a development company, teaching foreigners the Shanghai dialect and designing and selling environmentally friendly bags.

Though the preparation for the tournament is time consuming and demanding, it is all worth it in Shen's eyes.

"The feedback from the public is encouraging," says Shen. "Most of the passengers smiled and greeted us back with our greeting, and all the 20,000 magnolias were collected quickly by caring people when we asked them. This encourages me to believe that we can make a better Shanghai together."


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