Ashoka program teaches teens to lead change efforts in Miami

Communities / Article

Above: The Students and Tutors Youth Venture team of the Breakthrough Miami Cohort hold an awareness campaign to inform people of the importance of access to adequate test prep. Photo Credit: Owen Zighelboim, Students and Tutors

Knight Foundation supports Ashoka’s Youth Venture to develop entrepreneurial skills in high school students and foster a deeper understanding of community issues. Below, Ashoka Project Manager Elliott Jones writes about the effort.

This Saturday the Miami Foundation’s second Engaged Youth class will begin a journey to become changemakers. The Engaged Youth reflect the commitment of Knight Foundation and the Miami Foundation to developing new changemakers for Greater Miami. The group consists of 36 high school students who represent 17 schools in Miami-Dade County.

These future changemakers are participating in Ashoka’s Youth Venture, a process that empowers young people to learn how they can create the change they want to see in their communities.  The Engaged Youth class will get to know one another, practice self-exploration exercises and then dive into identifying community issues, forming teams and planning one-day awareness campaigns around a subject of their choosing.

The group will participate in a working lunch during which they will network with members of the Miami Foundation’s Engaged Youth Selection Committee and hear from guest speakers, Javier Soto, CEO of the Miami Foundation, and Lorena Garcia Duran, director of Ashoka South Florida.

This is just the first of many classes scheduled for the Engaged Youth cohort over the next several months. They are the second group to go through this process and will be training in parallel with the Breakthrough Miami Youth Venture cohort, which began a similar adventure this summer. Six teams from the Breakthrough Miami cohort are in the midst of implementation—and the challenges that accompany it. They include Strides4Slides, Words to Wisdom, Students & Tutors, Womentors, Save-A-Paw and Youth Care Giver. Congratulations to them for the work they’ve done so far. Their experiences offer a glimpse of what is ahead for Engaged Youth.

On Sept. 28, the Breakthrough Miami Youth Venture cohort will gather at Ransom Everglades School for a discussion about venture scalability and to hear guest speaker and Ashoka Fellow Conchy Bretos of MIA Consulting.  Moving forward, the Breakthrough cohort will begin to prepare for two panel presentations, the first being a mock panel in November. 

At the mock panel held at Ransom Everglades, each team will make a compelling argument for the audience on what they have accomplished and the challenges they have faced, as well as evidence of how they hope to achieve their goals. This is practice for January when they will present their ideas to a panel of community leaders representing prominent industries and fields in South Florida. Youth Venture teams receive recommendations from the panel and are awarded access to seed funding to help them to continue to implement their ventures and transform Miami.

That’s the type of experience the Engaged Youth have in their future. They’ll experience a mock panel in late January and their final presentations in March.

Ventures can be school-based clubs, community organizations, nonprofit organizations or for-profit businesses. Venture teams work to implement, refine and continue along this changemaker journey over the course of the entire school year, culminating in a Changemaker Celebration scheduled for June 2014.  That’s when both of the cohorts will come together to celebrate their accomplishments.

Youth development is key to a successful community. With positive programs such as Ashoka’s Youth Venture, combined with the support of Knight Foundation and our other partners, we are certain that the future looks bright for South Florida.

We will be updating you frequently on the progress of our young changemakers and hope to profile the venture teams.  Stay tuned!