Marie Copeland discovered the entrepreneurial spirit in fifth grade when she took on a concession stand at a Christmas tree farm. An opportunity through Rural Action’s internship program during her junior year of high school helped Marie decide to follow it as a career path.
The St. Clairsville High School senior will attend West Virginia University this fall, where she’ll be working on a dual major – Entrepreneurial Business and Pediatric Psychology – not to mention a minor in Human Development and Family Studies.
Marie likes to stay busy.
As a fifth-grader, she ran the concession stand, where she was in charge of everything from getting homemade food to the stand to managing the friends she hired as hourly workers. After four years of increasing sales, she outgrew the position and was moved to the cash register, but the business had grown so much that it was no longer suitable for a child to handle so she was asked to return and help, which she did.
“I’ve always been an entrepreneur, but the Rural Action internship and similar experiences convinced me to follow it as a career path,” she says. The Rural Action internship program placed her with the Dutton family, who run the Blame My Roots Country Music Festival in Belmont County.
“It was a great experience, and I will remain in contact with the Dutton family,” Marie says. “I definitely learned a lot. I mostly helped them with marketing the music festival. It was very interesting. I was amazed by how much work goes on behind the scenes to successfully pull off a three-day event.”
“One of our ambitions with Blame My Roots is to engage the younger community to build a sense of pride for an event in their ‘hometown,’ says Chris Dutton, co-creator of the festival. “Obviously this is a touchy subject because of the alcohol sales in the festival. However, this is still a live country music event, and we cannot minimize how an event like this can inspire our youth to either follow their creative endeavors, or follow their interest in any of the hundreds of career paths within the music industry.
“Marie helped us better understand how to reach the younger generation through a program that benefitted high school seniors. Marie is very ambitious and outspoken by nature so her input with this initiative was very beneficial to our team. We hope she gained a better understanding of our business.”
Working at Blame My Roots was one of the factors that convinced Marie to pursue entrepreneurialism in college.
“I knew I was going to be involved in business in the future, but at that point in time I was still focused on being a psychiatrist,” Marie says. “The internship and other things I’ve been involved in showed me that I want to continue to learn about business and entrepreneurship.”
When DECA started a local chapter at her school, she applied and became president. DECA is a nonprofit that “prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.”
“We work in conjunction with the Belmont-Harrison Career Centers and have teachers who teach in our school and work for them,” Marie explains. “We did community service projects, whether it was collecting items like coats or going out into the community.”
DECA also sponsors a regional competition, which Marie competed in, taking second place in Entrepreneurship in the competition at Akron University. She then qualified for the state competition in Columbus. Marie plans to continue participating in DECA at West Virginia University.
Her entrepreneurial spirit is stronger than ever. “I’ve never held an hourly job,” she says. “I do a lot of seasonal work and activities. The more I do, the more experiences I have.”
Those experiences include buying used furniture, remodeling it, and then selling it for a profit. She also works as a nanny and as a summer camp counselor.
Her internship with the Duttons helped her make critical connections within the community. The Duttons invited her to a Chamber of Commerce event where she met people she continues to interact with. “I did my internship as a junior,” she says. “Throughout my senior year, I have continued to participate in the community and many of the people I meet remember me from that event.”
At the behest of Rural Action, she also worked with Dan Christian, Career Navigator for the East Central Ohio Educational Service Center, to do a speech about her internship. “That was a great public speaking experience,” Marie says. “Speaking in front of people who are the same age as you is different from speaking in front of adults.”
What advice would Marie give high school students?
“I tell everyone to get involved,” she says “I’ve made so many friends and learned so much because I’m in every club that our high school offers. When asked to do something, if I do not have a prior commitment, I’ll be there.”
“I have lived by one motto throughout high school, which I heard in my freshman year. It’s helped me through a lot: ‘The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow.’ I heard that on one of those bad days after transferring from a small school to a large one. I’ve held on to that because I feel like anything you go through can make you better in the future. When things don’t work out the way you planned, there’s a reason. Sometimes it just takes one door to close for another one to open. That’s even better.”
Interested in a high school internship? Or maybe you’d like to hire students to intern at your business?