Helping youth create innovative solutions to community needs
"Many [NGOs] just donate [money] and give stuff to [youth], and [the youth] do not know how to create and innovate," says Haithem K., cofounder and collaborator on Kids Uprise. "With [the Kids Uprise] initiative, we want to awaken the entrepreneurial mindset in [youth]."
As a Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) project, Kids Uprise was designed and implemented by a team of five students, including four alumni of the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship Program's Tunisia Undergraduate Scholarship Program (Tunisia UGRAD): Sarah, Haithem K., Haythem R., and Leila.
Kids Uprise teaches leadership and entrepreneurship skills to youth ages 14-17 from disadvantaged areas of Tunisia. The project is part conference, part training, and part pitch competition - youth establish ideas that they can implement within their own communities. At the end of the training, the top project receives support to bring the idea to life.
Addressing community needs and creating solutions
The first iteration of the project worked with 15 youth from Rene Descartes High School in Tunis. The theme was improving the environment, inspired by the team members' own community service experiences in the United States through Tunisia UGRAD.
"When I did community service [at Concord University] it was around [the] environment, cleaning up [campus] the day before a big football game or sorting through the trash for recyclables," Leila explains.
The youth's winning project, Ecogaming, also focused on the environment, using bottle caps and other recyclable products as currency. While the pilot project focused on improving the environment, Kids Uprise can be centered on any number of social themes that affect communities, such as gender disparity, poverty, or community service. The team hopes to recruit students from 30 high schools in 15 governorates across Tunisia by the end of the year.
Encouraging community engagement
Haithem K. and Sarah came up with the idea for Kids Uprise after they returned from the Tunisia UGRAD in 2015 and heard about the CGIU competition at Avicenne Private Business School (APBS), where Sarah studies. They thought that a project which emphasized community needs and getting youth involved in finding solutions was the best approach.
"What I liked [most] about the US was the community involvement," says Haithem K. "In Lindsborg, Kansas there were only 3,000 people, but they were involved in their community. [In Tunisia], everyone thinks about his or her own interest. So I [wanted] to shift mindsets [to] get people to think about how to be involved."
Gaining access to networks of leaders
Kids Uprise won the APBS competition, and Sarah traveled to the University of California at Berkeley in April 2016 to participate in the CGIU Summit. There she made new connections, pitched to investors, and developed a deeper partnership with CGIU on the project. She also established new partnerships with City X Project and Singularity University, which will both lend technical support to the project next year.
"The [CGIU] experience shaped me and helped me see [how] I'm contributing and making impact," Sarah reflects. "I learned how to create opportunity and give back to my country."
The Thomas Jefferson Scholarship Program's Tunisia Undergraduate Scholarship Program (Tunisia UGRAD) is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the United States Department of State, supported by the people of the United States, and implemented by IREX.