Junior Camilo Saiz’s entrepreneurial spirit is as perennial as the lemon tree from which it stemmed.
The Finance Club Executive Board Member traces his entrepreneurial roots back to a lemonade stand he erected as a young child in Bogota, Colombia. The quintessential childhood undertaking was inspired after Saiz realized how fortunate he was to travel to school by bus in Bogota.
“I remember taking the bus to school every morning, and we would drive through some impoverished parts of the city in which we would just see people in the streets begging for money and people struggling to get to school. We were so lucky to have a bus; so blessed,” Saiz told The Wharton School Global Youth Program's Future of the Business World podcast.
Saiz, who was asked to appear as a guest on the podcast, said he felt that it was his responsibility to do whatever he could for children in Colombia. This sense of community responsibility and interconnectedness led Saiz to begin teaching English classes to young learners. Faced with what felt like interminable hurdles - including the inability to fund textbooks for the entire class - Saiz was spurred into action.
And so his lemonade stand was born.
Saiz quickly surpassed his goal of raising $500 and ultimately raised over $900 the summer before moving to the United States. A sum of money, he told the Wharton podcast, that was roughly equivalent to a typical Colombian family’s entire year of earnings.
Saiz said he chose to attend Benjamin after Head of Lower School Dr. Kristen Sheehan, who was a 5th grade teacher at the time, “talked me into it.”
“I knew it was going to be a challenge coming from Colombia, but I took it and I’m really glad that I did,” said Saiz.
Saiz says the compulsion to help - which was born in Bogota and continues to grow in South Florida - is contagious.
“Once you realize how much of an impact you can have on others has been a motivation for me, especially moving to America — to make the best out of my studies and hopefully be able to give back to my country that has made me who I am,” Saiz told the Wharton podcast.
Saiz’s entrepreneurial pursuits and commitment to his home country continue today as he works on building an online platform for teaching financial literacy lessons to children in Colombia, free of charge.
He credits middle school Science Department Chair Stephanie Oster and middle school STEM Coordinator Matt Oster as impactful educators who inspired him to explore the “limitless boundaries” outside the classroom. The pair stand in good company with upper school social studies teacher Dr. Hope Myers, who Saiz says has been his high school mentor.
“I speak to her very frequently and she motivates me. She has become a role model for me,” said Saiz.
Saiz is currently providing software to a handful of schools that provide English language classes via Zoom.
“What started with a little lemonade stand has now turned into a big program that hopefully by the end of next school year, hundreds of kids will have completed,” Saiz told the podcast.
“I believe that the biggest difference between kids in first-world countries and kids in third-world countries is the opportunity to access a proper education,” he said. “Financial literacy, which in the most simple terms is just how to manage your own money, sounds simple to us but to these kids that’s life-changing.”