Desiree dreams of becoming a vet; Ramon’s intent on joining the Marines; Rosa fills notebooks in hopes of becoming a poet. All three are high school sophomores in BUILD, a program geared at securing college educations for at-risk, inner-city Boston youth. (I’ve changed the students’ names.) Twenty students from BUILD visited our Back Bay offices as our team offered a primer on the college process. We stressed the importance of not only good grades and strong test scores, but also the critical leadership component captured on the Common App’s Activity List.
And this leadership piece is where these 10th graders from Charlestown, Dorchester, Roxbury and other underprivileged Boston neighborhoods already have a leg up on many college applicants. Each of them is part of a three or four member team that has actually launched a small business. Products include decorative shoelace tips, socks with pockets, cellphone hats, dePENdable pens that can’t be lost, and a brilliant blend of other clever items. Teams create business plans, build websites, market their products, and sell items at fairs and other venues – including gourmet cookies at Fenway Park. Mentors from the “real” Boston business community lend a hand and serve as role models.
Here at our office at 266 Beacon Street in Boston each MH&S consultant worked with a small group during a pair of hour-long sessions. Alex sparked her students to articulate their dreams. Kim shared her personal story of pursuing and attaining an athletic scholarship at Maryland. Drew reminded his group to leverage their entrepreneurial spirit to impress colleges. My wife Sarah explained how her own passion for History and English led her to pursue three different degrees.
To finish up with my group, I played a video for Rosa, the poet-laureate-to-be. On the day we gathered one our country’s brilliant poets had passed away, so we watched, mesmerized, a clip of Maya Angelou reciting, in her regal voice, her poem of resilience and hope, And Still I Rise.
As the BUILD kids paraded back out onto Beacon Street to return to their learning lab dubbed “the incubator,” I felt inspired – and humbled – by their motivation to launch their businesses, make it to college, and pursue their dreams.
p.s. For more on BUILD, check out their website.