Vital Education to Improve Lives (VEIL)
We promote community empowerment through sustainability education and increase access to sustainable products and options.
Please confirm you meet the following criteria
We have submitted the supplemental form linked in the description above
We are aged between 14 - 20 as of February 11, 2021
We live in the United States or its territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa)
We are not employed by, or directly related (parents or siblings) to a current General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee
We have been working on this project for at least three months
We consent to Ashoka and/or GM featuring our work on their website, social media, and in other materials regarding this Challenge using the information in our application
We confirm we have the rights to use and share any content uploaded on this entry form
Website or social media url(s) (optional):
Date You Started Your Project
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)
1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
People from historically disadvantaged and low-income communities do not have access to education and alternative sustainable lifestyles they can lead. Due to lack of funding, low-income school districts find themselves with decreased class and extracurricular options with little to no field trips or travel opportunities. Post-graduation, there is difficulty adjusting to life, resulting in a hard-to-break cycle of poverty.
2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Issues such as educational gaps and poverty cycles go hand in hand with the environment and climate change as things like fast fashion, fast food, and unethical business practices increase that cause harm to our planet and our community. By increasing access to education about sustainable lifestyle choices, we empower each other rather than shaming or faulting for participation in systems ingrained in our society. People would be able to give back individually, which would lead to a community and collective effort. VEIL aims to increase accessibility to sustainable lifestyle paths through education and empowerment. Our offerings include skill workshops and camps, virtual tutoring services, and community service. We believe in creating and pursuing an individual path amongst the collective. We can live our individual lives and truths while also contributing to the collective and ensuring the wellbeing of our planet. VEIL aims to create a collaborative and growth-focused community that is open and welcoming to all. We promote leading a sustainable by making small changes that will stick.
3. Please tell us how you are using science, technology, engineering or math to address your environmental challenge.
Through market research, we found that using technology is one of the most effective ways to get to our audience and increase our platform. Our skill workshops and tutoring services are fully virtual so that we can reach those that would like to learn, regardless of location. We use technology for social media campaigns and monthly newsletters with updated information, resources, sustainability tips, and opportunities.
We offer free science and math tutoring for middle to high school students. Students are paired with a college student with a relevant educational background (major, minor, or classes). Tutoring is hosted in small groups once per week. Students are free to network with other students and encouraged to work together on practice problems.
In our skill workshops, we cover a range of STEM topics including Food Science, Reducing Your Carbon Footprint, Vegan on a Budget, and What is Vegan-ish. These workshops are in place to teach others simple and budget-friendly ways for self-improvement and to also give back to their environment.
4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?
I decided to switch to a vegan lifestyle and I have noticed considerable increases in my health and contributions to my environment. I have been transitioning to this phase for 3-4 years by focusing on making small changes. I found that individualizing my education, choices, and ultimately, life path was the best way for me to make changes that stuck. I have been able to share my experiences with family, friends, and VEIL community. Members have reached out to me and told me that they made small permanent changes in their lives. One thing I hear is “I didn’t realize it was this easy” and how quickly changes snowball once they have the necessary information. This month, it’s going from cow milk to oat milk, and next month, it is growing a plant and so on. Before they know it, they’re leading a healthier, sustainable, and environmentally friendly lifestyle without realizing it!
5. Video (Keep it simple, your phone on selfie-mode is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”
6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.
Key activities that we have been working on are the PPE donations, virtual tutoring services, and skill workshops. Our services are offered virtually. PPE donations were donated to the homeless and struggling community members. Tutoring is offered for the following subjects: science, math, and English. Workshops are offered with a keynote speaker and create a collaborative learning environment by allowing participants the ability to engage during the event (through chat, Q&A, speaking).
7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
Our overall approach is to create a collaborative environment. We believe in being an individual amongst the collective. Through our workshops, events, and service, we hope to empower others to try something new or make a small change that makes for a positive future. We pride ourselves on creating an inclusive environment that is open to experimentation and growth. We have a founding team of multiple minority identities including LGBTQ, BIPOC, and disabled communities. By having a diverse founding team, we can consider multiple perspectives with our actions and messages.
8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made.
In the last three months, we have been focused on community service and finishing the semester strong for those that were receiving tutoring services for the fall. We passed out Winter PPE bags for the homeless community. The bags included masks, hand sanitizers, nonperishable snacks, hats, lip balm, and gloves. This was one way to give back to those that may not be able to afford the necessary protection and care. In total, we made and donated 75 bags.
In our program, we had 15 middle school-aged students receiving tutoring for science, math, & English. The students can ask questions during their sessions and were available to set up additional tutoring if needed, and there were slots available. The tutoring service was free, and each subject met once a week over Zoom. All 15 students found that their grades in the class improved or remained the same as in-person learning.
9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
Over the next year, we are planning to focus on events meant to empower the community. One event we have planned for March is a Virtual Art Exhibit for young, rising artists. This event will allow them to get experience, make connections, and sell their art. Another planned event is a Pop-Up Shop featuring student and young founders.
In the summer and December of this year, we will host our bi-annual skill camp. The camp runs for one week and will cover a range of topics with one day dedicated to STEM and sustainability.
Within the next year, we are planning to open a commercial space for in-person services. Students will have the option to continue services virtually or in-person.
10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.
During a tutoring session, one student asked me why I switched to a vegan lifestyle. I was very open when explaining to the student and everyone else on the call my rationale: I wanted to give back to the environment that gives to me daily. I also explained to them that they don’t have to go vegan to give back to the environment, and there are small changes that they can make in their daily lives to contribute. The students resonated with me and decided to implement small changes.
11. How would you partner with other changemakers to make a difference?
I’d partner with other changemakers by providing a space for them to promote their products and offerings where their message will be promoted and uplifted. We are planning to open a commercial space within the next year for in-person services. We are planning to showcase changemakers, student founders, and small businesses in any possible way. On social media, we work alongside organizations and individuals, so social media campaigns and partnerships are options to partner with changemakers.
12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?
I would invite them to one of our workshops, events, or tutoring sessions to get a feel of what we do and the spaces we aim to create. Our resources and education are open for all. We send monthly newsletters with resources, opportunities, and updates and are active on Instagram. We are engaging with our audience and providing them with up-to-date information. If interested, they would be asked to participate in events such as a pop-up shop or exhibit.
13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations less than $100
Donations between $1k-$5k
14. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you? You’ll be able to select only one option.
Are you employed, or directly related (grand-parents, parents, sibling) to a GM or Ashoka employee?
How did you hear about this challenge?
Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or General Motors, who was it?
Michigan State Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation