Free Enterprise Leadership Challenge

Free Enterprise Students

FELC students at Wingate University

What is the Free Enterprise Leadership Challenge (FELC)?

The late North Carolina U.S. Senator Jesse Helms always cared deeply about many things, but among his chief concerns were two things: young people and the future of America. With a focus on young people in mind, Helms Center President John Dodd founded FELC in 1995 to teach young people about free enterprise. Since that time, over 9,000 high school students have graduated from FELC.

What do students learn?

We strive to educate students about entrepreneurship, the differences between capitalism and socialism, free market economics, personal responsibility, principled leadership and corporate/personal philanthropy.

Five-day Program:

Company Competition 

In small groups, students form companies to provide actual services and products for other members of the camp. Using real currency, companies borrow from the FELC bank and are expected to turn a profit by the end of the program. With guided instruction, students work together to create business and marketing plans, commercials, pay taxes and maintain accounting records.

Engaging Group Sessions 

Each activity has a purpose and greater application. Students participate in the John Templeton Foundation’s Laws of Life Essay Contest and write about the core values which mean the most to them (cash prizes are awarded for top essays). During FELC, companies complete the Virtual Trade Mission – an internet based research-project which promotes a better understanding of the global economy.

Students also have the chance to participate in modified Lincoln-Douglas debates and persuasive speech contests (cash prizes for top speeches). Additionally, students prepare informative presentations on “core principle” topics. These three activities give students a chance to enhance critical comprehension skills and practice public speaking which are essential to business and college success.


Students meet face-to-face with influential business leaders like Karen Woods, a former welfare recipient who became a successful small business owner. Entrepreneurs, college professors, government leaders and former NFL players have each discussed their business success stories, the government’s impact on business, international trade, technological impacts on business and corporate citizenship.