OUR PURPOSE, HISTORY, & MISSION -
April 2020 - Today we are in the midst of the global Coronavirus pandemic, and students all over the world are being asked to make an abrupt and disruptive transition in their daily education routine, including using technology to attend class remotely via computer/phone-based video conference. Even before the Covid-19 outbreak, many public-school systems were already struggling with keeping students engaged in their education and preparing young people for the future of work, with the relevant entrepreneurial skills and critical knowledge about emerging technologies and new innovation models.
I recently read an article in my local paper, the Los Angeles Times, titled, “15,000 L.A. high school students are AWOL online, 40,000 fail to check in daily amid coronavirus closures”. (written by two of LA Times finest- Howard Blume and Sonali Kohli, March 30th, 2020). Upon reading the article (as well as several others - https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/us/coronavirus-schools-attendance-absent.html and https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-coronavirus-and-inequality-meet-in-detroit) it left me significantly concerned. Besides the broader issue of access to internet and computers (to attend "distance learning" via video conference services such as ZOOM), particularly in lower income communities and school districts, there was also the behavioral shift of adapting to this type of learning model so abruptly. This puts a real challenge and risk of young people becoming disengaged with their educational process.
Another article that I read recently (Bloomberg - April 10th - see chart) also sheds light on the explainable statistic that lower income earners are workers "who can't work from home", so in the current pandemic, they are suffering more from income loss. Exponential Entrepreneurs, by design, learn how to develop internet businesses, and thus in many cases this provides more options in situations like the current coronavirus.
The news articles were a wake-up call. There was context and implications here that I understood, as I had worked with the students in the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) a few years prior as part of an “Exponential Entrepreneur” (see image Pilot Program at Nava Prep) program that I developed and championed in my spare time, along with the support and efforts from an amazing group of volunteer co-workers and educators at a local public high school called Nava College Prep Academy (NCPA), in south central Los Angeles.
The goal of the Exponential Entrepreneur program was to bring underserved communities and young people the same knowledge, training, and awareness that my friends’ kids in Silicon Valley were getting, either from their school systems and/or from their parents and community.
As part of my background and profession (“day job”), I work and consult top universities, prominent startups, government leaders, leading NGOs/non-profits, and the executive teams of the largest companies in the world, as to how exponential emerging technologies and related innovations are going to - and currently are - completely changing society and the requirements of the workforce. I’m also acutely aware of how robotics and artificial intelligence will be replacing jobs that humans do today – blue collar and white collar.
With this vantage point and lens of “peeking around the corner”, and observing that “future” coming exponentially faster, it really instilled in me how significantly the pace of change and change itself will impact how one (i.e., a young person) needs to prepare to make a living, provide for their families, be self-sufficient, and ideally do this as part of something they are, or can get, passionate about.
Artificial intelligence, 3d printing, blockchain, augmented/virtual reality, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, spatial web, advanced robotics, quantum computing, high broadband (5g/Satellite), and other converging innovations are changing everything, and abruptly. New models and organizational innovations such as crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, the maker-movement, design thinking, the sharing economy, are all concepts that are disrupting professions of every type, as well as how broader society operates and functions. Combine this with the global and ubiquitous internet access forecasted in the next 3-6 years to connect our world of nearly 8 billion people (about half of whom have internet access today), and you truly have something transformational happening, and at an exponential pace of change that our traditional “linear” educational institutions and models are struggling to remain relevant.
One thing is for sure; there is no better or relevant time to be an entrepreneur. Individuals (of any age and any zip code) can access global resources and technologies that were only accessible to large business and big governments a mere couple decades ago. The democratization (ever increasingly reduced cost and ease of access) of capabilities and tools to run your own organization has recently opened up a tsunami of innovation and renaissance of small entrepreneurial teams and individuals that are changing the world. Now, it is just a matter of providing exposure, access, and training to this new “art of the possible” for people in all communities, vs. just the Silicon Valley communities of the world.
So, the question is how do you prepare to be a modern-day entrepreneur (for profit or not-for-profit), especially if you are a young person and this is your future? Especially in communities where it is a challenge for the local public-school system to stay up with these trends? For me, I was able to coach and advise my two children as they went through their public middle and high school education (first in Michigan, and then in California), as well as through their college education (which also was not keeping pace adequately). But I knew that even though these tools existed, much for free or at a very low cost, not every young person has access to this type of knowledge, resources, awareness, and training…. and that was, and still is a disadvantage that could effectively set a young person back in society preparedness and skills-relevance, the likes of which we have not seen before. The “knowledge gap” is also exponential, and now more than ever, has the potential to separate society in much more significant ways than the already dramatic ways it has in the past. How do we prepare society, and in particular young people in underserved communities that risk feeling in despair as they contemplate how best to launch their careers? (Particularly as they see more and more jobs in the future (that perhaps their parents did) being automated away with technology). This is an issue that we should all be very concerned about.
Don't think you can't learn and get access to these? You can and you will!
The previously referenced Exponential Entrepreneur program (above) at the NCPA public school in Los Angeles was my small attempt to address this challenge. (see image “Girls and boys, the lesson today is how to start your company” Oct. 6th., 2015 Los Angeles Times by Sonali Kohl). It was essentially an innovation experiment that the LAUSD Superintendent and High School Principal and I put into place with the courageous efforts of two amazing teachers, and a group of about 40 incredible and ambitious 10th grade students (as well as some amazing volunteer co-workers from my firm/team (Deloitte) at the time).
(Note: truth be told, the real champions here that made the program successful as a direct result of their full-time effort is attributed to the NCPA teachers and administrators, specifically; Aja Koester, Robert Ernes, Carlos Oyarbide, and Carlos Hugo and others).
The program started in 2015 and is still running today. (see "Weaving in Mentorship"). And some of the original students from that program (picture below - and yes young women were in the program but this photo was a group of students who were all friends) have now graduated and went on to start careers as successful entrepreneurs running their own business and/or attending universities. One student in particular, Marco Vargas, was a big influence on the program, as well as a mentor to the other students. He was, and still is, a leader. Ultimately, Marco graduated as the Valedictorian of NCPA High School, received a full-ride scholarship to Dartmouth (where he currently is a student), and he became an exponential entrepreneur, launching several businesses within his community in support of his community.
(see images below - "Nava College Prep Valedictorian Serves Up Business Savvy" and "Youth United")
Marco is an amazing young man (see Marco's bio), and someone that I’ve continued to mentor and stay friends. He has actually taught me a lot as well. His focus is to help businesses and people in his local community of south-central Los Angeles, by starting companies that employee and better his community.
This brings us to today, and the impact the coronavirus is having on the public education system for young people. As referenced in the April LA Times article in the beginning of my note above, the public-school system is significantly challenged right now. I can say after working with the teachers/principals within LAUSD, they are the most determined and passionate professionals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I also come from a family of educators who have or are working as public-school teachers (California) and college professors (father, brother, mother), and similar to them, I have seen first-hand the relentless dedication and compassion of our LAUSD educator community. (It may surprise you to learn that many of our public-school professionals use their own financial resources to buy the appropriate school supplies for their students!) So now, in this time of pandemic disruptive stress, this entire community of incredible educators needs our help… help to drive disruptive opportunity.
This is the purpose of this Exponential Entrepreneur reboot program. And I couldn’t think of a better community to engage with than with the NCPA school in Los Angeles. This community at Nava has grit, determination, and passion. They are used to reinventing themselves, they have done it before (see “To give their children a better education, parents launch new school” – Dec 18th 2014, Los Angeles Times by Stephen Ceasar).
Theory of Impact – (this is a short description, click here if you'd like to learn more about our Theory of Impact & Change) - Here is my belief; private citizens (like Marco and me) could potentially (and should) play a role to help and support the public educational system innovate and remain relevant, while supporting our teachers, amidst the learn-from-home transition that the coronavirus has so dramatically thrust upon us. So, recently I reached out to Marco Vargas and the NCPA students that I worked with previously as part of the Exponential Entrepreneur program and suggested that we organize an on-line version of the course to offer the knowledge, awareness, and skills students need (and noted above). The same competencies that Marco and his fellow alum have used to successfully create their own organizations and start their careers as entrepreneurs.
The vision is to bring together young entrepreneurs (alumni) from NCPA to share their experiences and mentor those in their community that are “in their shoes”. If we merge this peer-to-peer community mentorship model with the professional advice that I and my ecosystem could bring to the table, then perhaps that combination will engage students, similar to how it benefited Marco and others when they were in high school.
When I recently reached out to Marco to propose the idea, he was totally on-board, and immediately recruited other NCPA rock-star alum (see image) from the Exponential Entrepreneur program, like Kevin Vega (who also started a business on his college campus).
For a deeper dive into our "Theory of Impact & Change", please watch the video here)
And that brings us here today. This is definitely an experiment. We will run this program via on-line video conference (with an optional dial-in from phone only) with those that want to opt-in. We will use “fireside chat” and “panel discussions”, whereby my co-host Marco and I, along with our core team (see image) of coaches, will interview special guest "mentors" (as well as one another), in an effort to engage young people. Perhaps one week it is my good friend who is a NYT best-selling author and futurist for the FBI, or the CEO of the largest 3D printing company, and the next week it is a young YouTuber entrepreneur who has created a revenue model for themselves sharing their passion on-line in art and media. It will be fun. It will be creative. It will be exponential!
Most importantly, Marco and the team - the peers of the students we are looking to engage - will provide their first-hand experiences; details of the challenges they faced, their failures and learnings, as well their recipes for success.
We emphasize to young people that want to go on this journey with us to leverage this program as supplemental to your current school (and after school) programs. In this program we are not going to cover the basics that you need as foundational learning; math, writing, history, biology, social studies, computers, etc. We will cover how these fields are changing, and how new emerging technologies and innovations are creating an abundance of opportunity for those that are intellectually curious, passionate, disciplined, focused, and determined to control their EXPONENTIAL DESTINY.
Beyond our purpose, history, and mission ("Why?") outlined in our vision above, you may also be curious as to our strategy & approach ("Who?" & "How?") for achieving this vision.....
The daily program will begin in April. Registration is required. Once you register, you will receive a calendar invite with a link to joi...
15,000 L.A. high school students are AWOL online, 40,000 fail to check in daily amid coronavirus closures
About 15,000 Los Angeles high school students are absent online and have failed to do any schoolwork while more than 40,000 have not been in daily contact with their teachers since March 16, when the coronavirus forced campus shutdowns, district officials disclosed Monday.
Those figures, the first official data on student online participation, reveal the massive challenge confronting the nation’s second-largest schools district, which is attempting an overnight transition to “distance learning” for half a million students, the vast majority from low-income families, many lacking computers and internet access.
Though it’s still early, the numbers demonstrate how the digital divide among underserved students as well many students’ lack of engagement and strong personal connection to their classes will likely contribute to a deepening and worrisome achievement gap, education experts said.
“This crisis has laid bare what we always knew — how equitable opportunities are so dependent on parental background and wealth and access to resources,” said UC Berkeley education and African American studies professor Janelle Scott. “Having a physical school does really matter and having caring adults around who can support children and family is vital.”
“The harder part is not the technology,” he said. “The harder part is establishing a connection to the student. And I don’t mean a digital connection. I mean that human connection of some sort.” - LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner
Although she is showing up virtually for fear of falling behind, she understands why some of her peers do not. “They’re not feeling inspired to get the work done,” she said. LAUSD Student - Daniella, 17.
“Some kids will figure it was a time off, other kids don’t have the infrastructure, other kids are watching younger siblings, other kids are trying to find a job to help their family out,” Howard said. - UCLA education professor Tyrone Howard
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