Winner of the first PSU Entrepreneurship Storytelling Challenge shares her story

Storytelling. It can often make or break a company. And that’s why it’s an important skillset for any entrepreneur. PSU understands this. That’s why they recently held their inaugural Entrepreneurship Storytelling Challenge, to inspire young entrepreneurs to tell the stories of the ideas they’re passionate about.

When the dust settled, Sierra Gray, a student pursuing her BFA in graphic design, secured the most votes. And as luck would have it, I have the opportunity to share it with you.

An AI generated transcript of the story is below.

Hi, everyone. Thank you, Abby and Meredith for putting this event on.

My name is Sierra Gray. And I want to talk to you today about a topic that is really close to my heart. And that is education.

So growing up, I loved school, I was always excited to start a new grade, I did really well I did every sport and every extracurricular that I could. And it was genuinely because I loved it now, because I thought that they would look good on a college application.

Because if we’re being honest, I didn’t put a lot of thought into where I wanted to go to college. Not because it wasn’t important to me, I just didn’t know what options I had. I basically picked a school to go to based off of where I wanted to live. And I really lucked out in finding a major that I loved the school that I loved and learning that Portland State has an amazing graphic design program.

Now this wasn’t all me. I had excellent teachers growing up that instilled this love of learning in me, which one of which was my mom. And she’s a kindergarten teacher in my hometown in Washington. And much like me, she loves what she does. And she goes above and beyond for her students inside and outside of the classroom every day. And she has been an inspiration to me all of these years for that reason.

So going above and beyond to ensure that students get a quality education is really important, especially when those students are thinking about their post secondary plans. Something that I’m realizing more every day is that despite having wonderful and caring teachers school didn’t really prepare me for real life. I know the quadratic formula and the themes in Hamlet, but I have no idea how to take out a loan or do taxes, which is really embarrassing, because it’s things that every person my age should really know.

A big moment for me that started this realization was the first time that I had to fill out a FAFSA application before going to college in 2017. Everyone here knows the struggle with FAFSA. You get the constant emails, and you put it off until it gets a little too close for comfort.

So first off, I didn’t even know what FAFSA was. For those of you who are still wondering, it’s the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. But secondly, once I pass this initial threshold of avoidance, I unfortunately struggled with most of the questions on the application. Specifically in the Student Financial Information section. topics. They’re included student income, tax return and details and tax earnings and student adjusted gross income.

There’s a lot going on there. And if we’re being honest, I still don’t totally understand it. But as a young 17 year old, I definitely didn’t understand it. My parents helped me out big time, and they still do four years later.

All I’m saying is that high school could have at least told me that fast that was something that existed and that I would have had to eventually do it before I go to college. So I took out a loan to come to school and I’m part of the Western undergraduate exchange program, which is a program designed to provide West Coast adjacent students with reduced out of state tuition.

And achieving this was not a one sentence kind of ordeal, though it involved a lot of anxiety around feeling like I procrastinated, coming crying to my mom in the middle of the night that I wasn’t prepared enough for college.

And so so many Google searches, most of which were just how to take out a loan loans for college students how to pay for out of state tuition.

As you can see, I eventually got it figured out because I’m here talking to you today. But like I said, I still get anxiety about filling out FAFSA every year. And I also wish that I would have put more effort into deciding on a university because my happiness here honestly came down to luck.

But trust me, I love it here.

So don’t get me started though on how many times I’ve searched for resume cover letter examples and wish that I would have had more preparation for professional life, surrounding interviews and job applications as well.

So of course, this isn’t just a me thing, at least I don’t think it is, I know a lot of you out there will relate to this, which is why I want to work to better prepare this next generation of young adults for life after high school.

Because this is a real issue. These are things that school should have been teaching us.

There are some programs out there that attempted to address the situation. For example, I talked to a former high school student that I know about their experience with having access to related resources. And they mentioned that their high school did have a personal finance class, but it was not required. So it just took the place of an elective and really what teenagers going to choose balancing a checkbook over like PE. So programs like AVID exists as well to help students struggling in school form better study habits and give them tools for college success.

But they’re like what about kids that are doing well in school but need extra outside support? Or what about students that don’t want to go to college because that is a valid option as well. There are trade schools entrepreneurship opportunities, taking a gap year working and the list really goes on and on.

But I know that at least at my school, the only pathways advertised to us were going to a four year university or attending or going to the army. Kids really know that there needs to know that there’s more out there for them besides the norm. So all of these personal and outside experiences have given me an idea.

And that’s the idea his main goal is to give students the best chance at post high school success. The idea is an after school program for high school students that would focus on career exploration and research, developing goals and future plans, and preparing students for life after graduation by developing skills in personal finance, taxes, voting, interviews, job applications…. And so on.

The end product here would be a graduating class of seniors with an adequate knowledge of what lies ahead. These kids will be able to enter into adult life on a path that they know is truly right for them while feeling confident in their decision and their ability to function in society with less anxiety or fear surrounding these basic skills that most people my age struggle with today because of our under preparedness.

Thank you so much for taking the time to discuss this important matter with me today and considering how you could help impact your community through a program like this.

Thank you.