The Junior Economics Club provides students with rare opportunities in business


The lights are flashing. The camera is clicking, capturing rapid-fire snapshots of the stage. The action has begun.

Junior Katie McClure sits on a bright red chair, poised elegantly and ready for business.

Thanks to the Junior Economics Club of Grand Rapids, Katie had a unique opportunity last week: giving a ten-minute presentation in front of over 800 top business leaders in West Michigan. Countless eyes focused on her as she discussed the passion for economics of high school students in the region.

“[Presenting] was scary at first,” Katie said. “I was nervous going into it, but once I was up there, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

Katie’s audience was the Economics Club of Grand Rapids, and she was representing the Junior Economics Club of Grand Rapids.

Her hope was to get potential sponsors for the Junior Economics club.

“We wanted to get the word out there to all those business leaders about the Junior Econ Club,” Katie said. “I basically told them what we were: a nonprofit organization that is solely run by high school students.”

The Junior Economics Club, which has around 50 regular members and 4 board members, was founded in December of 2016 by Grace Lee, a student at East Grand Rapids High School.

Katie is the club’s Director of Ambassadors and Chief Marketing Officer.

“I didn’t become a board member until March [of 2017],” Katie said. “We have these forums throughout the year for members. After the first forum, I had the opportunity to become a board member, so I did it.”

The Junior Economics Club provides rare experiences for high school students that would usually be inaccessible to students on their own, including educational forums and business tours.

This club has given me the best business opportunities that I could have. It’s really good if you’re just intrigued by business and want to learn about the economy of Grand Rapids.

— Katie McClure

As a board member, Katie’s job is to organize and plan these events.

“Being a normal member of the club isn’t that time consuming, but being a board member is,” Katie said. “We have a forum scheduled for January and a business tour of Steelcase in February. My job is to talk to catering companies, places we could potentially host the forum, and speakers that can come.”

In addition to those jobs, Katie also has to communicate club activities with the body of the club.

“Being on the board is a huge responsibility,” Katie said. “We are constantly gaining new members, and we are constantly answering questions about how they can get more involved. But I enjoy being a board member because I love being a leader, and I think it’s a great experience.”

While the club has lots of representation in the Forest Hills District and East Grand Rapids, Katie hopes that more school districts will become involved.

“Our goal is to get students in the whole Greater Grand Rapids area into the club,” Katie said. “Not just Forest Hills and EGR, but all the schools around the city: Grand Rapids Public Schools, Caledonia, and Rockford. That way we have a better representation of the kids in the area.”

Since the club is run by high school students, the forums are targeted at helping teenagers learn things about economics that they can apply for the rest of their lives.

“What we learn gives kids a step up in their preparation for college and their life after college,” Katie said. “We’re able to give them a greater understanding of financial literacy, so they’re prepared for the real world at a younger age. This way they learn it before they have to know it for adult life.”

The course of the club is greatly enriched by the biannual forums hosted at various venues.

The last forum, held at the JW Marriott Hotel, featured guest speakers who could teach the students about everything from business to life.

“We have these awesome business leaders as speakers,” Katie said. “They talk about all sorts of things, from personal experiences, like how they got to where they were and what struggles they had to go through, to their actual businesses and how it interacts with the economy of Grand Rapids.”

For the Junior Economics Club, Katie’s presentation last week was a crucial event to heighten awareness for the club in the population of adult business leaders.

“The theme of that whole function was actually about the University Research Corridor, and we just got to do a ten-minute presentation on the side,” Katie said. “Still, there were a lot of business leaders there, so it was a great way to get the word out about our club.”

Katie isn’t wrong. The audience included many important people: Steelcase representatives, owners of various brands, and the presidents of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University.

In addition, both large corporations and small businesses alike attended the function, giving the Junior Econ Club an extra boost in terms of raising awareness.

For Katie and many other students, the Junior Economics Club is a great way to get a taste of what a career in business is like.

“I don’t exactly know what I want to do after college, but I think business is definitely something that I would love to do,” Katie said. “I also have interests in engineering and science, though.”

Even if students aren’t one-hundred percent sure of their path, the Junior Economics Club still offers a view of business they can’t get anywhere else.

“This club has given me the best business opportunities that I could have,” Katie said. “It’s really good if you’re just intrigued by business and want to learn about the economy of Grand Rapids. I’ve gained a lot of insight from all the things that the club provides.”