Lee's Summit Journal

Summit Tech’s Global Prep Squad helps businesses navigate international waters

Merideth Park, a member of Summit Technology Academy’s student-run business Global Prep Squad, recently practiced her pitch for the World Trade Center, in hopes of acquiring new business.
Merideth Park, a member of Summit Technology Academy’s student-run business Global Prep Squad, recently practiced her pitch for the World Trade Center, in hopes of acquiring new business. Courtesy photo

Sure, they’re young, but Summit Technology Academy’s Global Prep Squad just might have the answers to some high-tech questions for adults with international business plans.

Organized within the school’s International Studies Academy, this student-run business helps clients navigate the unknowns of international commerce in countries around the world.

“We learn about what and where our clients have plans and then study the circumstances in those nations,” said Ryan Hampton, Lee’s Summit High School senior.

“We find out if they are even allowed to bring the project or business to that specific county. We learn about restrictions, language and cultural challenges, and how the overall market works in that country.

The Summit Tech teams looks into international market research for businesses.

Hampton uses the example of a client who hopes to start a cellphone-related business in Madrid.

“We’ll research the different types of cellphone prices and services available in Madrid, so our clients will know the competition and be prepared to start the business immediately, rather than figuring it out when they get there.”

Curtis Cook, Summit Technology Academy’s International Studies instructor, formed the Global Prep Squad to help his students learn about international business through hands-on experience.

“A true student-run business lets students apply their academic knowledge to real-life situations,” Cook said. “Our GPS students provide solutions that our customers will actually implement.”

Cook added that clients count on students to provide reliable research.

“Students also gain the ‘soft skills’ that top industry’s list of most desirable traits for future employees. They leave (Global Prep Squad) with real, career-related experience on their resumes.”

Area corporations, entrepreneurs and non-profits with sights on expanding their organizations overseas have worked with this 25-member team to acquire pivotal knowledge and insights to help launch their new ventures.

In order to provide this level of service to organizations like the World Trade Center of Kansas City and the International Relations Council, Curtis and his team have built a broad base of resources.

Students track high-level academic data bases, international research, and data above and beyond what is available through an internet search. They have also developed global networks and established contacts, such as Rotary International, in hundreds of countries around the world. Mining these resources, they can advise on a country’s unique business and societal culture, its business language and etiquette, economics, marketing and more.

“People want to do business internationally, and they don’t want to fail with their businesses,” Hampton said. “Though I’m in high school, I’m helping our clients conduct business in other countries. I’m setting them up for success and I love knowing that I’m helping them feel comfortable in a new environment.”

Students are coached to work as professionals from the first meetings with those clients. This training includes Cook’s six-week “GPS Boot Camp,” which takes place at the beginning of the school year.

“The camp is the initial training required to get things rolling in our business model,” Cook said.

Among the training provided: reaching a level of Toastmasters’ curriculum, earning GPS certifications, learning cultural values frameworks from the Peace Corps training manual and researching current work of the United Nations.

“While these skills are continuously improved through student ‘professional development’ throughout the year, the first six weeks are an intensive focus on acquisition of these skills.”

As Global Prep Squad members, high school juniors and seniors from multiple school districts across the metro develop tangible professional skills. They are also gaining a heightened awareness of the world around them.

“This is meaningful, important work,” Hampton said. “We live in a world where there are so many different cultures, and I feel GPS is helping people understand the rest of the world. By the services we provide, we are bringing people together.”