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GES International Education’s new online curriculum offers students the ability to explore the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, from the safety of their own homes.
Small Business
July 27, 2020

With the aid of PPP funding, a STEM education camp moves its curriculum online

After schools closed and GES International Education’s marquee summer camps shuttered because of COVID-19, owner Jenny Li shifted to an online model to help students “find their genius.”

As school systems across the U.S. develop COVID-19 contingency plans for the upcoming academic year, Jenny Li is hoping her company’s new suite of online curriculum can help fill a void for students interested in advancing their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, while learning remotely.

Moving to an online curriculum model represents a significant pivot for Li’s Sunnyvale, California-based company, GES International Education, which has hosted hundreds of students annually at its summer and winter STEM camps in the U.S. and China since its founding in 2011.

Jenny Li
Jenny Li started GES International Education in 2011, with the goal of helping students discover their personal passions.

“I believe that every child is a genius, but the problem is it’s often difficult to recognize the field of study where we each might find that genius part,” said Li, who left behind her computer science career when she moved with her husband from China to the U.S. in 2006. “Even I’m an example of this — at 35 years old, I finally found my passion in education.

“By exposing students to new areas within STEM curriculum — from robotics to coding to artificial intelligence — our goal is to guide teens to discover their passion and empower them with critical thinking skills that can help them succeed in school and eventually their careers.”

In 2019, GES also launched a new after-school program with several Silicon Valley-area elementary, middle, and high schools. However, when the pandemic forced schools to close in March, GES also canceled its 2020 summer camps and Li was left wondering what would become of her business and her staff.

“It was really bad — almost no business at all — and I was so sad and didn’t want to lay off my employees,” said Li. “My business is like my baby, and I was so worried about saving it that I even considered selling my house. I contacted Wells Fargo in April about a loan as another option, which is when I began to learn more about the PPP loans.”

The Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, was a key component of the of the U.S. government’s $2.2 trillion emergency relief efforts to keep the economy afloat as COVID-19 led to mass shutdowns of businesses around the country.

Before the pandemic: At the STEM Maker Competition in July 2019, GES brought a group of students from the California Crosspoint Academy to participate in the competition in Beijing, China.
Photo: GES International Education

Like many small business owners, Li initially dealt with a myriad of challenges and questions in attempting to secure PPP funding. Wells Fargo Regional Business Relationship Manager Ray Rohullah Akbari was there to help her navigate through the process, while also learning it himself in real time.

“Jenny visited the Small Business Administration’s PPP website the very first day it went live and did not have any luck. After that, I made a promise to her that when Wells Fargo was given the approval to continue processing loans, I would send her the link and notify her immediately,” said Akbari. “We also discussed a contingency plan in the form of a line of credit given the overwhelming amount of uncertainty around the PPP process, as well as the limited pool of funds approved by the SBA initially.”

Fortunately, Li’s application was accepted by the SBA during the second round of funding. Her small business received a $66,500 loan — which is forgivable if certain requirements are met on schedule — helping to keep her workforce in place and adapt her business to the world of distance learning.

“Since we started banking with Wells Fargo in 2013, they’ve always helped us when we need it,” said Li. “Working with our banker, Ray, it feels more like friends talking and sharing stories. He knows what GES is doing and understands our business.”

For GES International Education, the PPP loan has proven invaluable in allowing Li to retain her course development team as the company builds and launches its new online STEM curriculums in both the U.S. and China this summer.

“Our team had been working on developing an online model before the virus, to complement our camps and after-school programs,” said Li. “Our company’s name, ‘G-E-S,’ stands for our mission to help guide and empower students to success — so we are fortunate to be a little ahead of the curve in getting this important curriculum online for students around the world.”

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