Creating Social Value Blog / Social Innovation

When the World is Your Classroom

By Janai Mungalsingh ’08, Manager of Youth Entrepreneurial Leadership Programs at Babson College.

I’ve dedicated the last 15 years of my career to youth out-of-school-time programs. I describe my job as creating those “ah-ha” moments for young folks. While I have always understood and recognized the importance of classroom teachers in the learning process, I have observed time and again that students do so much learning outside of school. In the out-of-school-time experiences I’ve led, the students were driven to work together and problem solve; had a genuine concern for the well-being of their peers and community; and made more responsible decisions. The “ah-ha” moment for me was recognizing that my students’ success was directly tied to their ability to live what they are learning and take away not just functional knowledge, but personal competencies.

So, you might say that my experiences over the last three years with Babson Summer Study took my background and experience and turned it “all the way up”. The residential component of this program combined with Babson’s mission to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset has shown me the role that a comprehensive living and learning environment plays in our students’ development. The transformational educational experiences we developed during this program (including out-of-classroom time) not only helped our students create economic value through their business ventures, but also created personal values that transcended the month long program, leading to new skill sets that these young people are using to navigate their everyday lives. Since the end of the 2016 program, parents, community members, and educators have been contacting me to talk about the positive changes and developments in their students, and they credit the program experience for this transformation.

During the summer, I watched students take ownership of the role that they play as decision makers. I saw them use their knowledge, resources, and networks to pursue opportunities, navigate uncertainty, and create the change they wanted to see in their community. Whether they were questioning classroom deliverables, organizing a group trip to the movies, or creating a safe space for the community to share personal expressions of identity, I saw students really embrace our methodology of Entrepreneurial Though and Action® as more than a mindset for venture creation. Their entrepreneurial mindsets became a key tool that allowed the students to pursue their passions and mindfully execute on their academic, personal, and professional desires. For me, it was truly inspiring to see young people – students, future leaders, workers, and business people – look at the challenges that faced them and skillfully navigate the nuances of college and residential living, team projects and time management, sharing their self-identities, and incorporating things that are simply fun.

As a Babson alumna, I constantly find myself reflecting on my time here and the opportunities that I’ve pursued as part of my connection to the college. It was a true honor to welcome more young people into this process and help our students cultivate a mindset that prepares them with the personal skills they need to be valuable contributors in their communities.