Above, some of the 13 EGHS students who competed at the annual Global Economic Symposium in Boston Feb. 14, plus faculty advisors Michelle Steever (rear left) and Timothy McPartlin (rear right).

By Suraj Sait

Give me one good, quality reason why I should be a morning person – and I’ll probably disagree. I’m a teenager, and I’m sure you know how much those of my species value sleep.

But this past Valentine’s Day, 13 students boarded the 6:35 a.m. train to Boston (I was one of those students). Accompanied by school librarian Mrs. Steever, as well as economics teacher Mr. McPartlin, these students were surprisingly awake. In a few hours, they would be presenting both posters and presentations to a panel of judges at the Boston Federal Reserve. The occasion? The 6th Annual Global Economic Symposium.

Global Economic Symposium (GES) is a one-day competition in which middle and high school students present issues of global significance, as well as their financially-viable solutions to them. Although the event is a competition, the competitive aspect is less emphasized than the opportunity that GES presents.

“The event exposes students to multiple areas of need and gives the next generation of business leaders, entrepreneurs, and global influencers a chance to figure out how they are going to change the world for the better,” said Jessica Caterson, a member of Paradise Lost, one of four EGHS teams at the competition. The others were Great Barrier, Money Men, and Bugavores.

“GES was such a great opportunity not just because of the people you present before, but also because it allows you to question a problem in the world and get proactive about solving it,” said Matt Tactacan, a member of Great Barrier.
The competition kicked off with the Poster Session, in which teams had a series of judges visit their posters. There, each team would present their issue and solution – essentially, a preface to the presentation section later on. Judges were able to ask questions after the poster presentation.

From left, Owen Hirshorn, Brant Wei, Suraj Sait, and Matt Tactacan, members of the Great Barrier team.

Next came the pitches. Teams had five minutes to cover a wide range of topics, such as the economic issue, impacted countries, their solution, and even implementation costs, to name a few. Some issues tackled at the symposium included the effects of misinformation, the increasing scarcity of meat, and the destruction of the world’s coral reefs.

Teams often struggled to finish their presentations by the five-minute mark. With the breadth and depth of knowledge required to deliver an effective pitch, many competitors were forced to rush through their final slides.

“I wish that the presentation time was extended by two minutes,” said Brant Wei, a member of Great Barrier. “Many solutions are complex and take time to explain.”

“While I did feel like I had to rush during my presentation, I understand the need to keep presentations concise,” said Caterson. “I’ve found that when groups are given the extra time, sometimes the focus of the presentation can get lost within all of the added information.”

As Caterson hinted at, this time constraint is highly reflective of the corporate world. In business, it is often required for employees to give timely presentations that succeed in convincing their target audience. GES recognizes this, and consequently allows students to gain valuable real-world experience in a competitive setting.

“Entrepreneurship and our unique vision for how we could solve a global issue were very closely related,” said Matt Tactacan, a member of Great Barrier. “GES only reinforced the idea that if you put your mind to it, effort into it, and you provide a platform for people to listen, you set yourself up for something great.”

By the end of the day, two East Greenwich High School teams walked away with awards. Paradise Lost (Morgan Prior, Jessica Caterson, Jeremi Morrison, and Emily De Los Santos) came in second in the Presentation Category with their environmentally-friendly solution to overtourism. The Great Barrier, the team I was on together with Matt Tactacan, Brant Wei, and Owen Hirshorn, took first in the Presentation Category with their product idea, which would prevent harmful chemicals and trash from entering coral reefs.

Stay tuned next year, around Valentine’s Day, for another slew of interesting and perhaps world-changing ideas at GES.

Contributor Suraj Sait is a senior at East Greenwich High School.