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TitleUSD Program Helps Teens Blaze a Trail to Success
ContactLiz Harman
Contact E-mailharman, at
Contact Phone(619) 260-4682

Today’s teens face many obstacles to success these days including competition for college admissions, a tough economy and a changing global marketplace. But a new program at the University of San Diego can empower them to succeed in school, business and life.

“Blazing My Trail” is a junior executive program built on the principles of business development. After spending a career teaching professionals to advance their businesses, national sales trainer and business strategist Ann Marie Houghtailing is now focusing her talents on the younger generation. “It occurred to me that the skills I teach professionals can be taught much earlier and are not typically covered in traditional academic environments. The earlier our children learn to network, have critical conversations, navigate social media and manage money, the more empowered they will be to create the life they want,” she said.

Designed for middle and high school students, the program features fun, practical exercises and activities to help ease students’ anxieties and boost their self-confidence, said Jodi Waterhouse, director of Corporate & Professional Programs for Continuing Education at USD.  “It can also give parents more confidence in their children’s ability to handle life’s dilemmas, helping them to resist the temptation to become ‘helicopter parents’ who swoop in at a moment’s notice to assist them. As parents we dedicate ourselves to raising successful, independent people but now more than ever we need to ensure that our children are prepared to navigate the complexities of an unknown future.”

Activities, for example, include goal-setting and SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threat) analysis that students will use to make decisions and complete a community service project.  Students will learn the value of personal networking, engaging in meaningful conversations, and how to deal with shyness and self-consciousness. Students will learn the value of social media but also the security issues involved as well. They will spend time looking at creative solutions to life’s problems and how to leverage their skills and talents and promote themselves with integrity and grace. Students will learn money-management skills  and discuss the importance of money in their value systems. Finally, students will have the opportunity to create a strategic plan to help them launch a project, goal or idea.

Participants will hear from guest speakers who can motivate and inspire them including 10-year-old Perry Chen, an award-winning artist, animator and film critic; Suamhirs Rivera, whose difficult childhood inspired him to become the coordinator of the Unaccompanied Minor’s program at Casa Cornelia Law Center and Jason O’Neil who became a successful entrepreneur at the age of nine with his business Pencil Bugs Plus.

The three and one-half day program for middle school students takes place from July 26 to 29 in USD’s Manchester Executive Conference Center. The high school program takes place from Aug. 2 to 5. The cost of $350 includes materials, instruction and refreshments. Students can bring their own lunch or eat at one of USD’s dining facilities. For registration and more information go to or call (619) 260-4231.

leading change at USD