Life is tough for Xavier Massey.
The 16-year-old from Waxhaw, North Carolina, works part-time at Wal-Mart to help his mother put food on the table for his siblings. At the same time, Xavier attends high school as a sophomore.
Xavier’s father died when he was just 5-years old, forcing the young man to partly support his welfare-dependent family.
“I’m the youngest, but I’m in the middle of everything,” he said. “I’ve had to grow up faster than other teenagers because of having to help my mom with the bills, having to work, and having to go to school.”
But Xavier hasn’t been forced to fend for himself. During the summer of 2012, he received invaluable training from the Free Enterprise Leadership Challenge, a project of the Jesse Helms Center located in Union County, North Carolina.
Established in 1995, FELC is a 5-day summer camp that gives rising high-school sophomores, juniors, and seniors a golden opportunity to get hands-on experience in entrepreneurship, business, and leadership. The program, held at local colleges and universities, now counts over 6,000 young people as graduates. (To learn more about registering, click here.)
Xavier credits the summer program with inspiring him to go onto college one day — and perhaps pursue a career in free enterprise.
“The conference challenged me to want more for myself,” he said.
Xavier wasn’t sure what to expect when he arrived at FELC, but he quickly learned the ropes.
Students create their own for-profit companies to provide actual services and products to other students in the camp. With guided instruction, these entrepreneurs-in-training learn how to create marketing plans, maintain accounting records, pay taxes, and more.
Shortly after arriving, Xavier volunteered to run as the president of his own company — and won.
“The goal is to learn about how adults conduct business, running day-to-day operations,” Xavier said in explaining the business. “We had to sign contracts. We had to work with other people.”
“It was a great experience for me,” he added. “My team was first in cumulative points at the end of the week.”
Normally, the registration fee for the FELC is $100, but the cost is waved for students like Xavier who don’t have the means to pay and who show strong leadership potential.
Xavier’s experience at the camp prompted him to want more for himself. “I see new potential beyond the little town that I live in,” he said. “I realize that I can actually do something and make it in life.”
Xavier also has an interest in being a pastor or a missionary, a calling that has been on his life from a young age.
“I’ve always felt an innate ability to help others and put them first,” he said.
Life might be tough for Xavier, but he’s received new inspiration — and new direction — thanks to FELC.
To learn more about the John William Pope Foundation’s support for public-policy groups like the Jesse Helms Center, click here.