How to Develop Tomorrow’s Leaders Today

“In today’s world, we see a global leadership crisis,” says George Tsiatis, CEO and co-founder of the Resolution Project, an organization that funds, mentors and supports college students who are starting social-impact enterprises. “If we want great leaders, we’ve got to start training them and building them up to be those leaders from an early age.”
It is a common sentiment, but Tsiatis has taken it extraordinarily seriously. As an undergraduate, he was deeply involved in organizing the Harvard World Model United Nations, which brought together students from around the globe, with two of his college friends. And while Tsiatis, along with Howard Levine and Oliver B. Libby, enjoyed the experience, they felt unsatisfied after it concluded.
“We were bringing together these bright people from incredible backgrounds, and we were simulating something,” says Libby, the Resolution Project’s chairman and co-founder. “And that’s a valuable educational experience, but we noticed — George, Howard and I — that there was something left on the table.”
In 2007, as recent graduates, Levine, Libby and Tsiatis returned to the World Model United Nations, where they invited the undergraduate “delegates” to share their ideas for socially responsible ventures. The response was overwhelming, and they saw potential in helping these students launch their ideas. Not long after, the three friends started the Resolution Project.
Today, the Resolution Project runs eight to 10 competitions a year at undergraduate youth conferences around the world to select its fellows. After a rigorous process in which the aspiring entrepreneurs pitch and defend their ideas, the winners gain a wide support network, including two mentors who guide them through the peaks and valleys that come with starting any business or nonprofit.
Fellows are also granted seed funding, which ranges from $1,500 to $5,000. Crucially, the fellowships include lifelong support that’s not tied to the particular starting venture, which, like all new endeavors, may or may not succeed. Instead, the idea is to find would-be leaders and put them on the path toward developing and refining those skills. So far, nearly 400 fellows have created over 240 social enterprises in more than 20 states and 70 countries. These efforts have impacted over 1 million people.
“Young leaders are told, quite frequently, that they are the leaders of tomorrow and so many of them have ideas for things they could be doing now,” says Levine.
Watch the video above to see how the Resolution Project opens up possibilities for ambitious young people and, by extension, the world.


This story was paid for and produced in partnership with the Resolution Project, whose mission is to develop socially responsible young leaders and empower them to make a positive impact today.

Generating Coding Fever in Tech-Loving Minority Teens

Alongside the glinting waves and pristine beachfront property, a surge of talent is transforming Miami into a tech hub.
The Kauffman Index rated the metropolitan area of Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach as the number one entrepreneurial area in America, and international tech startups are using the city for its geographic proximity to Latin America.
But in Broward County, just north of the white sands of Miami Beach, there’s a stark reality for the youth of color: They don’t have access to technology or entrepreneurial leaders the same way that some of their well-to-do peers do.
“In areas of high growth in the tech and entrepreneurial or small business sector, [minority] populations are completely left out of that activity,” says Felecia Hatcher-Pearson, co-founder of Code Fever Miami. “If you have an idea, oftentimes you have to leave your neighborhood in order to execute on that idea or get the right resources in order to make that happen. And that’s a problem.”
Hatcher-Pearson’s organization is bridging that digital divide — which she refers to as an “innovation desert” — by providing opportunities to young teens of color in coding lessons and pitching business startup ideas.
Since 2013, Code Fever has introduced more than 3,000 youth and adults to the tech ecosystem. It’s also served as host to more than 100 tech events, including boot camps and hack-a-thons.
This isn’t Hatcher-Pearson’s first attempt at bringing entrepreneurship to youth. After losing her marketing job at Nintendo in 2008 when the financial crisis hit, she moved back into her parent’s Florida home and opened an ice cream and popsicle stand in Broward County. She noticed that the kids in the community looked up to moneymakers: those selling drugs.
“Sometimes the first way [these kids] get introduced to entrepreneurship in their neighborhoods when they live in impoverished neighborhoods, it’s the guy that’s selling on the block, right? And if he’s successful, he’s getting a mentor, like someone showing him how to do it,” she says.
Hatcher-Pearson began pairing teens with entrepreneurs to learn how to market and sell sweets using extra stands she had laying around.
“We know what happens when young people can’t get their first jobs or don’t learn the basic skills on how to be self-sustainable, the entire cycle of poverty continues,” she says.
As Miami’s tech scene started taking off in 2010, Hatcher-Pearson recognized a similar lack of entrepreneurial mentorship.
“It wasn’t inclusive,” says Hatcher-Pearson, referring to the tech scene in Miami. “It didn’t include the black community or the Caribbean community in any of the activity, the resources, the programming or any of the spaces.”
With the help of her husband, Derek, the two started Code Fever.
The organization’s reputation is built on its ability to foster African American tech talent through its Black Tech Week. The summit provides multiple pitch opportunities to help finance burgeoning startups, class intensives geared toward making older generations more digitally native and education for teachers on how to bring in more technology into the classroom — a massive hindrance for students, Hatcher says.
“Oftentimes, their teachers don’t have the right tech training or tech confidence, and they’re the ones that are not doing a good job of allowing technology to be in the classroom,” Hatcher-Pearson says.
Ryan Hall, who heads the curriculum for Code Fever and Black Tech Week, says that based on his own personal experience, the role the organization plays in students’ lives is essential.
“I personally found that I was in a lot of these tech spaces, and I didn’t see a lot of people who look like me,” Hall says. “We care about taking people who are minorities and bringing them into the technology economy, because it has the ability to raise people out of their socioeconomic situation.”
Both Hatcher-Pearson and Hall attribute the program’s success to its ability to allow kids of color to integrate their own personal lifestyles and interests into coding. Code Fever accomplishes this by bringing in local black celebrities and creating hybrid projects that merge music and tech or sports and tech.
“Culture plays a major role in introducing students to [science, technology, engineering or math] fields,” says Hatcher-Pearson. “We have to introduce them to computer programming because… the current narrative is that the black and brown community doesn’t exist in tech, and we are pioneers in tech and innovation.”
The 2017 AllStars program is produced in partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal and celebrates social entrepreneurs who are powering solutions with innovative technology. Visit from Oct. 2 to Nov. 2 to vote for your favorite AllStar. The winner will receive the AllStar Award, a $10,000 grant to help further his or her work advocating for change.
Correction: A previous version of this video stated that Miami is the birthplace of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. He was born in Albuquerque, N.M. NationSwell apologizes for this error.
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The Low-Risk Way to Help At-Risk Kids

Perhaps the biggest danger for at-risk youth is the loss of social ties. Stranded by an absent family or an uncaring community, there’s usually no stopgap to prevent a young person from dropping out of school, turning to drugs or uncorking their anger with violence — unless a coach, pastor or neighbor steps in. In other words, these children need a mentor.

Too often, the kids most in need of reassurance and guidance aren’t connected with a mentor. Nearly one-third of America’s youth grow up without a trusted adult relationship outside their home. Of those, more than half — 9 million American kids, about the same size as all of New York City — are considered at-risk.

As the founder and CEO of MentorMe, a tech platform for youth and small business development, Brit Fitzpatrick is out to change that. “I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we shifted the way we view mentoring relationships from something formed by happenstance or as a product of privilege, to something that can be used as a tool to actually strengthen our communities,” she says. “What would happen if we shifted the focus of cities from attracting outside talent to actually investing in the young talent that’s already there? What if, along with great neighborhoods and great schools, every child was given a great mentor?”

The for-profit MentorMe, founded in 2014 in Memphis, Tenn., uses technology to better serve disconnected youth. Their cloud-based platform helps nonprofit organizations match their volunteers to the right child, manage the pair’s activities and then measure the impact of the relationship. As clients like Points of Light, the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce and the State of New York can vouch, MentorMe’s automated software program beats tracking each mentor and mentee on an Excel spreadsheet or, worse, with pen and paper. At Memphis Grizzlies Foundation, senior manager Desiree’ Robertson says the biggest boon has been the online application, particularly useful during the holidays when she might receive five or six requests a day. Fitzpatrick estimates that, for most clients, administrative time is cut by a quarter with the platform.

“The way mentoring programs are traditionally run is not scalable, as they rely on paperwork, spreadsheets and half-baked solutions,” Fitzpatrick says. “Unfortunately, most people underestimate the time needed to run mentoring programs successfully, and while they roll out to great fanfare, most fizzle out before gaining significant traction.”

Why is a streamlined process so important? Matching a kid with the wrong mentor can actually do significant damage. A mentoring relationship that lasts for less than six months actually degrades a young person’s feelings of self-worth and perceived performance in school. That’s why it’s essential to partner adults and children based on shared interests and expectations and to ensure they are meeting up at regular intervals, which MentorMe’s platform tracks.

If the pair jives, the results can be life-changing. Fitzpatrick, who herself benefited from mentoring, knows this firsthand. Raised by a single mom, she spent her after-school hours and summers at the Boys and Girls Club. Since graduating from Howard University in 2009, getting her first job in digital media marketing and founding a startup, she has given back by mentoring others. And her platform has helped another 6,000 volunteers find a young person to advise.

“As individuals, we may not be able to eradicate poverty; we may not be able to wipe out youth violence,” Fitzpatrick says. “But we can all start where we are, reach back and find a young person to invest in. Then, collectively, we can all be part of providing a brighter future for the next generation.”

Homepage photo courtesy of MentorMe.

Continue reading “The Low-Risk Way to Help At-Risk Kids”

With Odds Stacked Against Them, This Group Is Helping to Build Self-Esteem in Young Black Women

“Babies raising babies,” is how Tracey Wilson Mourning, a former journalist and wife of retired Miami Heat basketball player Alonzo Mourning, describes the group of teenage girls carrying their children near her neighborhood in Florida to The Root.
“I wondered, ‘Which one am I?’ out of that group, had it not been for the mommy I had, had it not been for the amazing women in my life,” she says.
This questioning led Mourning to start a mentoring group for young black women called Honey Shine.
Since 2002, the organization has been reaching out to young black women in Florida, offering group mentorship, a six-week summer day camp and bi-monthly workshops focused on education, health, nutrition, sex and drug education, and making goals for the future. The participants are called “Honey Bugs,” and sharing warmth and affection among the generations is a big part of Honey Shine’s mission.
Honey Shine turns even fun events into learning experiences. For example, a back-to-school shopping trip sponsored by Forever21 that helped 100 girls pick out clothes for school was also an opportunity to teach the Honey Bugs about budgeting and “shopping smart.”
Mourning tells The Root that these girls benefit from guidance in all aspects of their lives. “I know a lot of these young girls don’t have that mom that I had, don’t have those people pulling them up by their coattails or taking them outside of their neighborhoods,” she says. “We have girls that come from neighborhoods called ‘the Graveyard’ where two out of 12 are graduating from high school. Not on our watch.”
Most of all, Mourning wants Honey Shine to show the girls the possibilities that await them if they stay out of trouble and get an education: “[Women] run companies. We own companies. We influence the world,” Mourning says. “And if our girls see that, what a difference that makes. Self-esteem is a powerful tool. We all make dumb mistakes when our self-esteem is low, and I don’t know anyone immune from that, but I feel like if we build self-esteem in our young girls…it makes the world of difference.”
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Inside the Movement to Train a Nation of Female Scientists

On January 8, Million Women Mentors launched an ambitious initiative to find a million women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers to become mentors for young women. They’ve already had 44,000 experienced professionals sign up to help, either through in-person or online mentoring or by providing internships or job opportunities.
Million Women Mentors is collaborating with 42 partner organizations, including 4-H, Girls Inc., and the Girl Scouts, who will connect them with girls seeking mentorship. They’ve also lined up corporate sponsors such as Walmart, Cisco and General Motors.
The unprecedented joint effort behind Million Women Mentors seeks to turn around some troubling statistics: women earn 60 percent of undergraduate degrees, but only 11 percent of computer science degrees. And women make up nearly half the American work force, but only hold 24 percent of the jobs in STEM fields. Julie Kantor, chief partnership officer for STEMconnector, says that the trouble starts in middle school when girls who are naturally interested in science begin to feel that they don’t fit in science classes because the number of other girls taking them decrease. “That’s when ‘I hate math, I hate science’ starts for girls,” Kantor told Gregory M. Lamb of the Christian Science Monitor. With the help of the Million Women Mentors initiative, hopefully we’ll put the days of Barbie dolls saying “Math class is tough!”  long behind us.
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Teaching High School Kids How Not to Lose a Fortune

Raise your hand if you remember that time the Kardashian sisters got sued for racking up $120,000 in charges on their employer’s credit card. No?
Well, for the high school students participating in the Chicago chapter of the financial-literacy program MoneyThink, the celebrity snafu serves as a teachable moment. In a seminar called The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Plastic Money, a MoneyThink mentor uses the reality stars’ mishap to help teens understand how important it is to create a budget, especially to keep from spending money they don’t have.
The lesson seems fairly obvious: If you don’t want to end up in a financial hole, you should know how much money you’re earning, and not spend more than that. But “there’s a difference between knowing something and doing something,” notes Sarah Gordon, vice president of nonprofit investments at the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) in Chicago, MoneyThink’s biggest funder. Gordon also sits on MoneyThink’s board. “I know I shouldn’t eat bacon cheeseburgers, but sometimes I do. I shouldn’t speed when I drive my car, but sometimes I do.”
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The goal of MoneyThink is to close the knowing-versus-doing gap, and to teach young people, especially those who come from low-income backgrounds, a more sophisticated way to think about money. By all accounts, they need the help: According to a national report from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), millennials aged 18 to 34 have significantly lower financial literacy than older cohorts. When asked five standard questions about personal finance, FINRA found in 2012 that millennials answered 2.3 questions correctly, compared with 3.3 of those 55 or older. A 2009 report from the National Endowment for Financial Education found that in a survey of about 2,000 college students, 73 percent had engaged in “risky financial behaviors,” like taking on additional debt after graduating from college when they were already sandbagged with hefty student loans.
“Every headline for the past five years has been talking about how broke our generation is, how the income gap and the wealth gap continue to grow, and how low- and middle-income Americans are becoming more and more marginalized,” says Ted Gonder, 23, a co-founder and executive director of MoneyThink.
The nonprofit, born in 2007, started as a mentorship program at the University of Chicago, whose home city has one of the highest rates of extreme poverty in the nation. Gonder and four of his fellow students started mentoring poor kids in the neighborhood, with the goal of increasing financial literacy. The program gained traction quickly, and before long the founders were at the helm of a nationwide student movement. There are now 30 MoneyThink chapters on college campuses in low-income areas in 10 states, including the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Columbia University in New York City and Washington University in St. Louis. In 2012, President Obama recognized MoneyThink as a “champion of change,” and in October the program won $100,000 in funding through MassChallenge, the country’s largest business accelerator.
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Gonder buzzes with ambition and energy, his mop of brown hair never perfectly in place. In a sea of Gen Y’ers with a vision, his relentlessness stands out. “We’re on a hunt for the holy grail of youth financial-education effectiveness, and we won’t stop until every student in America enters adulthood with the knowledge, skills and tools to navigate real-life financial decisions on the pathway to prosperity,” he says.
MoneyThink is a modern-era money-management program; its curriculum goes beyond teaching students how to balance a monthly budget or checkbook (though they do that, too). The nonprofit focuses on value creation through entrepreneurship and personal branding. In program units titled Marketing Yourself, Networking, Jobs and Entrepreneurship, students create a resume and fill in a worksheet that helps them articulate their character assets and what skills they personally bring to the table. MoneyThink also strives to instill in students the confidence that they have the skills they need to succeed — confidence itself being a real asset in a marketplace that values self-promotion.
“What it takes to get and keep and create a job in the 21st century is vastly different than it was 100 years ago, 50 years ago or even 20 years ago,” says Gonder. “Even if you work for a big company or government, your job is not secure, and pensions are a thing of the past. Self-reliance has to be at the front of mind and the front of action.”
MoneyThink mentors, who are all college-age volunteers, make good use of current events, pop-culture case studies and technology (stay tuned for a MoneyThink smartphone app coming soon) to engage their 11th- and 12th-grade pupils. Classes are structured in a small group setting, with a 5-to-1 student-to-mentor ratio, where mentors can get to know students personally, and customize their lessons. The program lasts 21 weeks, allowing relationships of trust to form between the college and high school students. The fact that they’ve made it to their junior and senior years of high school in itself demonstrates that they have what it takes to succeed, explains Gonder.
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“I have a goal each day,” says Nnaji Iwunza, 19, a MoneyThink graduate from Chicago who, after being accepted to 21 universities, many on full scholarship, is currently attending Baldwin Wallace University and studying marketing. “I set myself a spending limit, and have goals for savings.”
Nnaji, who is also a forward for the university basketball team, says that most people refer to him as “Nnaji, the basketball player,” and requests of this reporter, “Can you please put ‘Nnaji, the student?’ ”
MoneyThink tallies between $300,000 and $500,000 in funding each year from CFSI and other firms, including Blackstone, Pimco, State Farm and Chase. The nonprofit has plans to become self-sustaining by creating a membership base of alumni who would pay for access to an internal professional leadership network, job board, events and the like. Gonder is also hoping to make the mobile app profitable, though he’s still trying to figure out how. He has ambitious goals to scale up in the meantime, aiming to establish MoneyThink chapters in every city in the United States by 2019.
CFSI’s Gordon thinks the program has potential to grow while keeping costs low. Financial coaching is expensive, but MoneyThink is driven by a volunteer movement of young people teaching other young people. That’s an infinite and renewable resource.
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