We have a long way to get to reach our aforementioned mission on a global scale. I hope to use academic research as the engine to reinvent STEM education, youth leadership and social entrepreneurship. These, among other declarations, would set the tenets of an ambitious experiment-in-action. The startup program is currently deployed across California to construct a more powerful action-oriented STEM social entrepreneurship platform for students to blend learning inside and outside the classroom to solve urgent and tangible problems in their community. This is known as the Support, Encourage and Develop for Children (SENDforC) Initiative: an award-winning student-created, student-initiated and student-driven call to action for multidisciplinary leadership to “contribute locally, impact globally”. We believe exposing students to the rigors of academic research, social entrepreneurship and community development can serve as a playful way to co-create social enterprises between K-12 students and their undergraduate peers.
Students from partnership high schools are able to select an individualized multidisciplinary program of their choice: Hard Sciences, Engineering or Computer Science tracks. Each individualized program offers its own distinct educational pedagogy, completely different vision and multidisciplinary curricula to choose. With open-access, students are able to enroll in a 730-day social entrepreneurship program regardless of their resumes or transcripts. Unlike traditional educational models, individual students are given a choice to decide what they do or do not want to study. Based on the extensive diversity from our University Mentors serving as instructors and researchers, students can also pursue a very specific niche as well as broad interests, including emerging fields (in a changing world) they may not otherwise be exposed to. Some include Computational Psycholinguistics, NanoMedicine, Quantitative Biology and others nested in the tracks of over thirty potential (and growing number of) research topics the exceptional undergraduate students have specialized their research in.
Many of the aspects that make the organization unique are placed in the Unique Value Proposition header. We will explain that further then and the power of its student-driven flexibility there. A bold aspect of our experiment-in-action was our decision to set the rigor level as exceptionally high (not only challenging for high school students but rigorous for our undergraduate mentors). Each ‘track’ or curriculum has its own unique focus, but many case-studies and workshops were taken from conceptual modifications from actual laboratory edge-cases of the (undergraduate) University Mentors own experiments. For example, our prior lessons included understanding the molecular machinery of DNA to troubleshoot a planned error of biochemical techniques and understanding the computational thinking and how to optimize algorithms to save time and energy. Now, how would we integrate them together? These underlying concepts are not abstract for students, the nuances of complex academic research and methodical planning and troubleshooting teaches remarkable discipline, collaboration and organizational skills. It was a deliberate emphasis to set the bar on the curricula high and give considerable freedom for the program to be student-driven, student-created and student-oriented.