40 years of Free Enterprise Week inspires students

Williamsport, we have guests!

About 400 high school students from across the state have been in town each week from early July until early August — and they have been different students each week.

Their purpose? To attend a business camp offered mainly on the campus of Lycoming College, though the fourth week of the program also takes the youths to Pennsylvania College of Technology.

It’s called Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week, and it’s been going on since 1979.

That’s 40 years worth of dividing students up into companies within specific industries, such as candy, power tools and fitness equipment, where they work together to develop and present a product. The youths get a unique opportunity to see what it takes to be successful in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

They also get to experience college life, socialize with other youths from different areas of the state, and hear presentations from world-class speakers.

When they leave, the students take home valuable life lessons, knowledge of the American free enterprise system, even lifelong friends that sometimes become business partners later in life.

In the past four decades, the program that began at Clarion State Teachers College and moved around before settling in on the local campuses has graduated over 46,000 students.

And each year, the students keep coming back. The program clearly has a pretty strong appeal, given its growth and annual draw.

What’s more, graduates of the program who register for and are accepted by either Lycoming or Penn College also are guaranteed scholarships at the local schools. That’s a lot of value from a one-week summer camp.

The program goes by the acronym PFEW, but we’d rather say, Phew! How lucky Pennsylvania students are to have this opportunity!