Just a couple years ago, a politically correct Russian high school student looked forward to becoming a member of the Komsomol, or Communist Union of Youth.
At 14, the student would be tested on his knowledge of the Komsomol bylaws and understanding of Marxist-Leninist doctrine. If he passed, he would be rewarded with a membership card and a red flag-shaped pin with a portrait of Lenin.
How times have changed. The new right of passage for a Soviet high school student may soon be joining Junior Achievement and learning the principles of capitalism.
To help that effort along, a student, teacher and businessman from Carroll County will join more than 100 other Americans to launch a Junior Achievement program in the Soviet Union next week.
"Maybe the younger generation can help solve the economic problems in the Soviet Union," said Stephanie Wiegel, a senior at North Carroll High School.
Four years ago, Stephanie was one of the first students to take the Junior Achievement's applied economics course at North Carroll. She and her classmates created a mock company to produce and sell mugs with the school's emblem. They sold stock, paid workers, marketed their product, collected the revenues and paid taxes.
They earned about $80 and learned that business isn't as easy as they had thought. Nevertheless, Stephanie was not discouraged. She intends to major in accounting when she goes to college next year.
But her next mission will be to teach Russian students some of what she has learned about capitalism and how to operate a business. She and her teacher, Kim Frock, will leave Monday for their two-week stay.
Accompanying them will be G. Melvin Mills, the head of the Carroll County Junior Achievement Board and president of Mills' Communication, a firm that sells electronic communications equipment.
Mills said that when he learned that Junior Achievement was going to go to the Soviet Union to launch a pilot program, he wanted someone from Maryland to be involved. The Baltimore office decided the representatives should come from Carroll County, which has one of the most active Junior Achievement programs in the state. They selected Frock, a government and economics teacher at North Carroll who had taught Junior Achievement's applied economics course since its inception.
Frock chose Stephanie because she had been one of the first students to take the course and because of her academic record and extracurricular activities.
Next week, they will meet with teachers, students and business people in the Soviet Union, helping introduce them to a computer model that simulates business competition and advising them on how to set up their own mock companies in which to teach the students the principles of capitalism.
Frock said she hopes to convince the Soviets that profit is not a dirty word.
The Soviets, including Gorbachev himself, have embraced the idea of the Junior Achievement and hope to have 100,000 Soviet students studying Junior Achievement materials next year.
Junior Achievement was founded in the United States in 1919 and is taught in every state and a number of foreign countries. Despite the ups and downs of the American economy and financial scandals on Wall Street, Junior Achievement has remained popular and now is required instruction in some Carroll County high school classes.
Frock said she expects education will go both ways during her visit. Besides teaching Soviet teachers, she said, she expects to learn to appreciate what she has in this country.