Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Inspiration with Youth CITIES

This past semester I volunteered as a mentor for the L3 Innovation Challenge, a program designed by Youth CITIES (Creating Impact Through Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability) in which middle and high school students are challenged to apply entrepreneurial principles to the design of a product that meets an unmet need in the healthcare and medical technology fields. The students must prepare a final prototype and presentation for a panel of industry experts at the end of the program. My role was to facilitate discussions with teams in regards to their product design, market appeal, stakeholders, etc.
Youth CITIES itself is a nonprofit organization based in Cambridge whose mission is “to empower young people to innovate and drive change in their community by applying entrepreneurial principles and creative problem solving skills.” The organization reaches out to students from all economic backgrounds to provide affordable exposure to the skills and ideology necessary to succeed in a competitive economy. My involvement with the nonprofit began when I was in sophomore year of high school and decided to sign up for the March to May Bootcamp, Youth CITIES flagship program. What was a last second decision at the time turned out to be arguably the best decision I made in high school. Participating in Youth CITIES has been an incredible educational experience and opened the doors to a plethora of opportunities.
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.
While applying to Olin I realized that Youth CITIES and Olin would be a perfect fit for each other, as they share similar missions to inspire creativity and develop solutions for the good of the world. Getting accepted made me even more confident in this assumption, as I recognized how Youth CITIES’ values had meshed with my own over the course of my relationship with the organization.
Now, with the help of Kelly Brennan, SERV, and Vicky Wu Davis, I am looking to make the relationship between Youth CITIES and Olin a reality. This semester, Youth CITIES is seeking Olin students to act as mentors for this year’s March to May Bootcamp (which if you hadn’t guessed by now runs from March to May). If you choose to join us you can expect to work alongside respected businessmen and entrepreneurs to help spark students’ creativity and develop their presentation skills, business plan, target market, and product design. The program takes place at the Cambridge Innovation Center, which is home to a staggering amount of startups and companies, and takes place on Saturday mornings from March 5 to May 7. There will be a brief training session some time before the program begins. Check out the service update in this paper and be sure to contact me if you are interested! I owe a lot to Youth CITIES, and I hope that Oliners will not only benefit themselves from their participation, but inspire students in the program to see the world through a different lense.

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