A friend of mine recently wondered how to get his smart but bored daughter more interested in solving real problems in the world. Another friend mentioned all her kid seems interested in is games and creating her own videos.
I could relate! Growing up in China, I heard from my parents the importance to study hard. What that worked for me, I didn't want to give my kids too much pressure or be a tiger mom. My kids seem to be doing well in school for the most part, but the older one at 11 (same age as when I left China) mentioned school's boring. Despite earlier interest in science, now mostly he seems interested in videogames, football stats, and Percy Jackson books. Hmm...
I recently met Vicky Wu from YouthCITIES who might have an answer to this. Her organization teaches middle and high school kids from diverse background to use entrepreneurial thinking to solve problems in the real world. She said her students, sent to her by teachers and parents, fall into three groups: 1) the business minded, 2) the ones who want to make impact, and 3) the smart kids who are a bit lost. Sounds familiar? :)
How does YouthCITIES engage kids? The format is a 10-week, Saturday mornings session, located right in Kendall Square, at the CIC Co-working space where many startups work out of during the week. Let's hear from one of her past students, Andrew...
"The March to May Bootcamp preaches the idea that entrepreneurship is a way of life, and attempts to establish a connection between an entrepreneurial mindset and technological, artistic, and social innovation. It takes students from all backgrounds and teaches them that neither zip code nor gender should define someone’s potential. Students establish the basics of running a business and creating a startup, including a business plan, value proposition, and target audience, while developing public speaking skills by creating an elevator pitch and presenting to a panel of judges on their proposed startup. The student’s efforts are driven by the promise of $1500 in seed grant funding for the strongest venture idea and pitch.
As a relatively shy high school student with a slight interest in engineering, Youth CITIES exposed me to an entirely different, more social and creative, approach to engineering, education, and business. I improved my ability to speak in front of a crowd, and won crowd favorite alongside my partner in the final competition. Along the way I formed a relationship with Youth CITIES’ founder Vicky Wu Davis, an incredibly hard working individual who is always trying to help others as much as she can. After the March to May Bootcamp I was introduced to the director at the Cambridge Innovation Center, which led the way to an internship that summer. Thanks to Youth CITIES I adopted a new outlook on life, made connections with several influential people in the startup scene, and finalized my decision to study engineering."
And my coworker who first introduced me to Vicky mentioned her son tried all the different offerings of YouthCITIES, and got super excited about startups, and is now brainstorming startup ideas as a proud MIT student. :)
When Vicky says she wants to help all kids, she's not kidding, she aims for 50% low income families and 50% female! One of her first students was from Lawrence, and was the winner that year. She found the experience very helpful and went on to fruitful college experience.
She's even worked with kids from the Putnam Ave Upper School (PAUS) our upper school. And worked with Mirko the principal on training teachers. :)
Well I'm sending my son to the 10-week, Saturday morning March-to-May Camp and maybe I'll see you there! :)