Activating Youth from Baltimore to Babson
On April 13th, Sha-Shonna Rogers and Kayla Woolford clinched first place at the Babson Baltimore Cup, the inaugural Babson sponsored high school pitch competition in Baltimore. I Am OKah!, youth community leadership organization and educational partner of Babson College Youth Programs, is the first organization to host a qualifying round for the Babson Boston Cup outside of Massachusetts.
Sha-Shonna and Kayla’s venture pitch outlined a business plan for the Black-Hispanic College University Network, an app they designed to connect high school students to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). The app aims to connect users to current undergraduates at HBCU schools, gamify visiting HBCU campuses, and help navigate scholarship opportunities. Sha-Shonna and Kayla are not alone in their determination to create social impact in their community. They are just one shining example of the many young leaders emerging from a passionate movement dedicated to empowering the Baltimore community in creating positive social change city-wide.
I Am OKah! Executive Director, CEO, and Founder, Aisha DaCosta, believes an entrepreneurial mindset can empower youth to unlock their greatest potential. “We teach our students that there is a spectrum of entrepreneurship that includes innovators, inventors, intrapreneurs, and entrepreneurs,” explains DaCosta, “and they will have to find their place on this spectrum in order to live a life of purpose and become financially secure.”
I Am OKah!’s Financial Rockstar Academy is a college and career readiness program that utilizes entrepreneurship and investing principles to teach critical thinking. Their goal is to teach 21st century skills while helping students gain an understanding of both entrepreneurial discovery and fiscal responsibility and management.
How do changemakers like DaCosta go about creating entrepreneurial ecosystems that instill the skills, values, and resilience needed to break through socio-economic barriers that block young people’s access to success?
The answer lies in fostering collaboration between funders, educational institutions, and community champions. “We might have the playbook with all the winning moves,” explains Janai Mungalsingh, manager and curriculum author for Babson Youth Programs, “but we can’t just walk into underserved classrooms and start assigning teams.” In her experience, it’s the community partners that are vital to engaging underserved youth. “They are the ones who have spent years creating real relationships with the students, their parents, the whole city,” continues Janai, “we’re there to amplify the awesome work that’s already happening.”
In March 2018, powered by a grant from Yawkey Foundations, the Babson College Youth Programs team headed to Baltimore to deliver a professional training on how to teach and implement their ACTIVATE curriculum. I Am OKah! got the word out. DaCosta leveraged the connective tissue within the social entrepreneurship community, including leaders of Impact Hub Baltimore and Baltimore Corps, to open the event to a wide network of Baltimore educators and youth organizers.
And how has Babson been able to boost the entrepreneurial programs for I Am OKah!? “[The activities centered on purpose and passion were] especially helpful in removing our students’ insecurities about whether or not they could be entrepreneurial” said DaCosta. Getting high school students to feel confident in the face of uncertainty is no small feat. It’s the first step in empowering students to forge their own career path.
With the Babson Boston Cup only days away, and as the coveted trophy makes its way back to Babson from Brooklyn, only one question remains: will the Cup be returned to a Boston borough, or will it be captured by the visiting team? Battling eleven semifinalist teams, Sha-Shonna and Kayla will try to bring it home for Baltimore and capture the thousands of dollars of seed money to take their venture to the next level.
To score a front row seat and learn more about the Babson Boston Cup, visit the Cup’s website.