This is a guest post by my sister, Rebecca Gross. I am so proud of her values and the organization she is building, Student Driven Solutions. I’m honored to share her story with you today!
Hello friends, family, followers, and bloggers!
My sister has graciously given me space on her blog to spread the word about a new initiative that I am launching in Malawi called Student Driven Solutions. Our mission is to provide Malawi’s secondary students with the skills and confidence necessary to address challenges in their community through an integrated business and advocacy curriculum.
So how did I find myself founding an organization in Malawi that blends education, youth empowerment, financially literacy, and community action?
When I was in high school I traveled to Botswana with a group of classmates to work at a children’s center called Bana Ba Letsatsi. I had always known there was a world out there far different from my cushy Manhattan life, but boy were my eyes opened. I couldn’t stop thinking about how challenging life can be for the unlucky ones born into the wrong geography. I am unbelievably fortunate to have been born to a loving family, in a stable country where I have never questioned my access to education, water, food, and other basic necessities. From that experience forward, I knew and understood at the core of my being that not everyone was so lucky.
As time went on, I found myself immersed in college life. I thought about other things. But, my thoughts always returned to the children I met at Bana Ba Letsatsi. When I travelled to Madagascar to study for two months, I met more students whose aspirations were limited by the poor quality of education in their villages. Then on to Tanzania to teach at a rural primary school where I spoke with even more young people about their hopes for the future. I was proud of these kids for dreaming but I knew we needed to better provide the skills and tools necessary to enable them to turn their ambitions into a reality. This August, I moved to Malawi and I was not surprised to meet other scholars with big ideas who can benefit their communities if taught the tools they need to succeed.
We are doing a disservice to students around the world if we do not teach them the fundamental skills necessary to effect change and create a life they wish to lead. Imagine learning how to ride a bike, but the bike doesn’t have pedals, and the tires are worn down. Do you think you would enjoy learning? Do you think you would believe you would be a star cyclist one day? Probably not.
It would be challenging to master riding in this way. You might even give up. I wouldn’t blame you. Imagine how students around the world must feel every day when they think about reaching their goals and creating lasting change but lack the proper education and support they need to make their dreams a reality. Many give up. I don’t blame them.
Together, we can change that. We can give students the capacity and confidence to impact their own lives as well as the lives of their community members. That’s what Student Driven Solutions aims to do.
Student Driven Solutions has designed a comprehensive and innovative 20-week curriculum for financial literacy education coupled with student conceived hands-on community projects. The curriculum is based on UNESCO guidelines and financial literacy coursework. Our trained secondary school teachers will provide business education and financial management sessions. University student mentors will supervise and provide guidance throughout the program. Starting in the 14th week of the course, the students will work in teams to identify a challenge in their communities, brainstorm a viable solution, develop a plan of action and create a program budget. Each team will be granted a reasonable allowance to implement and complete their projects. Teams will be accompanied by the program director and mentors to present their plan to the local bank official to withdraw the allotted funds. Upon completion of the 20-week course, the teams will present their work to one another. The members of the most successful team will win scholarship funds and the opportunity to present the team’s accomplishments before a panel of government and business officials from the community.
Thanks to all those who are still reading,
Founder, Student Driven Solutions
Actual sister of Elana Gross (sorry all you fake sorority sisters, I’m the real deal.)