(StatePoint) Trailblazing young people will be at the heart of building more connected, sustainable and informed communities, especially if they have tools and resources to put their ideas into practice, say today’s tech leaders.
“We can all take inspiration from today’s youth. They are living and breathing so many of the challenges our society is facing, and they’ve got big ideas for how we can be better,” says T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert. “Often, the only thing holding them back is the need for funding and mentorship.”
With this in mind, T-Mobile, the T-Mobile Foundation, and Ashoka, a non-profit that promotes social entrepreneurship, are launching the third Changemaker Challenge, seeking innovative ideas focused on Technology, the Environment or Education. Through April 8, youth ages 13 to 18 can apply for the opportunity to receive seed funding up to $15,000 and one of 15 spots at the Changemaker Lab at T-Mobile Headquarters later this year to network with peers and engage in mentoring sessions to help supercharge their ideas. Including this year’s program, T-Mobile and the T-Mobile Foundation will have invested nearly $1 million in Changemaker Challenge projects and mentorship opportunities.
Over the past two Changemaker Challenges, 770 teams entered projects focused on solutions for issues such as food insecurity, mental health, the collapse of bee colonies, flood warning systems and gun violence prevention, integrating solutions into everything from apps to robots. At the February 2020 Changemaker Lab, Mike Sievert awarded each of the three category winners $10,000 and offered support via one-on-one meetings with T-Mobile leaders and Ashoka experts.
According to Chander Payne, a previous Changemaker finalist, taking part in the challenge was instrumental in putting his passion into practice.
“I witnessed food inequality in my school and wanted to take action, but didn’t know where to start. I entered the Changemaker Challenge knowing only that the lack of fresh food in my school was not right, and left with an exciting plan to build an urban farm at my high school that would provide fresh food to underserved students,” says Payne, who founded Urban Beet through the Changemaker Challenge. He has since expanded his organization to several other schools, as well as homeless shelters.
Payne says not to be intimidated by the idea of entering, even if you have just a kernel of an idea.
“Because I was forming my idea during the application process, I felt intimidated by my peers who had been working on their amazing projects for years. The community feedback aspect of the challenge made me feel like I was not competing with the other teams, rather we were changing the world together,” says Payne, who offers this advice to future Changemakers: “Live with your eyes wide open and you will notice the problems that affect your friends, family and neighbors and inspire you to make a change.”
Disruptors, trailblazers and entrepreneurs between the ages of 13 to 18 who have bold ideas about how to change their communities and society for good can visit the contest website to learn about the 2021 Changemaker Challenge and to apply at challenges.changemakers.com.
“There is a lot of talk about urgent societal and global challenges. We want to focus on solutions. We know America’s youth are up to the challenge to put fresh thinking behind big problems and come up with big ideas that will drive change,” says Sievert.
Photo Credit: (c) monkeybusinessimages / iStock via Getty Images Plus