"There's no limit to what free men and free women in a free market with free enterprise can accomplish when people are free to follow their dream." This quote from Jack Kemp, former American politician, embodies the mission of Rotary's Enterprise Academy, which is to introduce select high school students to the challenges and opportunities of our free enterprise system and equip them with the knowledge necessary to become successful. While doing this, Enterprise Academy provides students with a chance to explore the business world and interact with current entrepreneurs.

Enterprise Academy originated in 1967 with Columbus Rotary. The new program was created with the intention of informing and educating students in the ways and benefits of free enterprise. The very first Camp Enterprise, as it was called at the time, was held at the Jeffrey Manufacturing Co. Foreman's Club with twenty-two students from Columbus high schools. The seminar lasted three days with the help of twenty-two Rotarians and nine other business leaders. The selected students sat in on various panels about free enterprise, such as, "How I Started A Business" and "A Philosophy of Management."

Furthermore, students develop ethical business practices through various fun and creative activities that spark their imagination. What makes Enterprise Academy special is that students are faced with real business decisions that they and their partners must make with the help of other business leaders at the seminar. This hands-on participation is what makes Enterprise Academy so appealing to students.  They have a chance to form their own opinions about business practices while learning in the process.
 
After the first year, Camp Enterprise grew exponentially as more and more Rotary clubs began to hear about the extraordinary program. In only its second year, Camp Enterprise had received a District Significant Achievement Award and the George Washington Honor Medal Award for the Columbus Rotary's economic programs offered through Camp Enterprise.
 
Nelson French, Rotarian and entrepreneur, helped lay down the foundation for Camp Enterprise in 1968. As a Past President and Past District Governor, French brought his knowledge of business and America's free enterprise system to assist in organizing many Camp Enterprise retreats, which is why many consider French a "Founding Father" of Camp Enterprise.
 
"We look for students with leadership when we select the participants for Camp Enterprise," said French.  "The students see it as an honor to be selected because of the prestige that comes with being selected."
 
While it may have started with Columbus Rotary, Enterprise Academy has expanded to Rotary clubs around the country. Nelson French and others promoted the successful program to different Rotary Clubs everywhere and the idea caught on.  "Today we have Enterprise Academy in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Kansas City and even Toronto," French added.
 
Enterprise Academy has spread throughout the nation. From San Diego to Tulsa, Rotary Clubs all over are adopting Enterprise Academy and continuing to build the future leaders of America. San Jose’s Rotary Club has a version of Enterprise Academy of their own that serves plenty of students.
 
John Kennett, Executive Director of the Rotary Club of San Jose, provided some information about their “leadership conference.”  “We held our first program in 1984 and had 47 students representing all 25 high schools in San Jose,” Kennett mentioned.  “I was proud to be one of the founding members of our committee and was an active member and speaker at the camp for about 10 years.”
 
The Rotary Club of San Jose decided to rebrand the conference from “Enterprise Camp” to “Enterprise Leadership Conference” in order to continue recruiting the best students.  “We currently partner with two smaller Rotary Clubs and serve 96 students each year at Asilomar which is a conference center at the ocean quite close to Pebble Beach,” Kennett added.
 
The students who attend the Enterprise Leadership Conference have shown great innovation and initiative in recent years.  “Just as the groups have gone from poster boards to PowerPoint for their presentations, 7 of the 12 groups last year developed smart phone apps for their business and all 12 decided to use angel and VC funding rather than boot strap or use a bank.”
 
With such great success, it’s no surprise that there are four total Enterprise programs in Kennett’s district alone.
 
Enterprise Academy began with a small group of Rotarians, business leaders and students at Columbus Rotary Club and has since grown into one of Rotary International's most prestigious programs. This three day retreat inspires select high school with a talent for leadership to develop their skills and opens them up to the business world of America. With Enterprise Academy, students can become great entrepreneurs and contributors in society. As Paul Drucker, American management consultant and educator, said, "The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it and exploits it as an opportunity."