Vital Education to Improve Lives (VEIL)

We promote community empowerment through sustainability education and increase access to sustainable products and options.

Photo of Tiauna
6 4

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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):

Website: Instagram: our.veil

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?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Sales
  • 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.

  • Web/Mobile Development

Are you employed, or directly related (grand-parents, parents, sibling) to a GM or Ashoka employee?

  • No

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Email

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

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

Probably - 33.3%

Maybe - 33.3%

Probably not - 0%

No - 0%

2. CONNECTION to Environmental Sustainability

5 - Absolutely! It is totally clear that the solution is contributing directly to environmental sustainability and/or addressing climate change - 66.7%

4 — Yes, it establishes a connection to environment/ climate change but could be stronger - 0%

3 — Somewhat, the entry speaks to this environmental sustainability, but the direct impact is not well established - 33.3%

2 — Not really, the connection to environment/ climate is very weak - 0%

1 — No. The entry does not have a reference the solution’s impact on environment and/or climate change - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

3. Is this entry CREATIVE?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

4 - Yes, I think so - 33.3%

3 - Maybe - 0%

2 - Probably not. - 33.3%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Does this entry demonstrate a COMMITMENT to changemaking?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 100%

4 - Yes, I think so - 50%

3 - Maybe - 0%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Does this entry value CHANGEMAKING through collaboration with other stakeholders in its approach?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

4 - Yes, I think so - 66.7%

3 - Maybe - 0%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

6. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

4- Yes, I think so - 33.3%

3- Maybe - 33.3%

2- Probably not - 0%

1- No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: What are the strengths of this project?

CONNECTION: You have a great understanding and personal connection to the problem - 100%

CREATIVITY: You have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions to aid environmental sustainability/combat climate change - 33.3%

COMMITMENT: You have a thoughtful plan for growing your business, and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 100%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: You value thinking around how to activate other changemakers and empower them to care about your cause. You also have a clearly defined plan on how to collaborate across multiple stakeholders - 66.7%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 0%

VIABLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 33.3%

Other option - 0%

8. FEEDBACK: What are some areas for improvement for this project?

CONNECTION: Why you care about the environment/ climate was unclear – It would be great to elaborate on what this solution means to you, personally and how it affects you and/or your community. - 33.3%

CREATIVITY: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 33.3%

COMMITMENT: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 0%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming. How will they care about environment/climate if they currently do not? Think about how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 33.3%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 100%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 33.3%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 33.3%

Other option - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Luna Abadia

I think it is great that you are harnessing the power of one-on-one interactions to encourage others to take action on the climate. I would love to hear more about how your workshops, tutoring, and community service projects connect to sustainability or climate action!

Photo of Carson McBain

The way you see these interwoven challenges as opportunities to model and encourage sustainability is inspiring. You are clearly a beacon of so much good and a major asset to your community! Tutoring is a great way to connect one-on-one and influence the way others think, both directly and indirectly. If you have any stories of people you worked with through tutoring or workshops who later took up veganism, decreased their meat consumption, cut down on carbon emissions etc. I would love to hear them! It's tricky to measure or track this type of thing, but maybe doing a "before and after" survey in tandem with the workshops could help you collect this data or testimonials. I'm interested in learning more about how you provide access to sustainable products - what are some of these products and how do you widen access? I love your approach to helping students grow, both with education and how they see themselves in the world - you are focused on the holistic wellbeing of the whole person rather than narrowly focusing on a behavior you want to encourage. Keep up the great work!

Photo of Tiauna

Thank you Carson! I agree- tutoring is a great way to get connect one-to-one and give back directly and indirectly! I actually do have a story haha! Last semester, a student asked me about how I'm able to eat vegan while being a college student and/or on a tight budget. I think one huge misconception is that veganism is expensive or requires a bunch of time and effort. I talked to them about getting staples such as oats, rice, frozen fruit and veggies, beans, etc. and working with those! I sent them a few recipes for vegan dishes and nut milks (they were surprised by how easy it was to make oat milk and it's usually cheaper than store bought!) plus vegan vitamins and vitamin sources. In our next tutoring session, they told me they tried making oat milk. The recipe still needed a little tweaking, but they were happy with the result especially since it was easy and helps them give back! I gave them a few more simple recipes, articles about ordering vegan at popular restaurants, and my favorite vegan creators. At the end of the semester, they told they've been cutting down their meat consumption and only eat meat once or twice a day vs every meal. I thought that was super awesome because breaking the thought pattern that meat is needed for every meal is a huge step! I made my change similarly- slowly cutting out meat and switching to alternatives before fully committing and it has helped with making the change permanent and a lifestyle.

For increasing access, we host community events to support our local community and entrepreneurs. In May, we're having a Pop-Up Shop Eco Edition that will feature local ethical products, brands, and companies. We've found that these events increase customer options to sustainable and ethical brands and give our participants a chance to increase their network and customer base. We also offer workshops and social events focused on sustainability (past topics: What is Veganish?, Reducing Your Carbon Footprint, & Nut Milk Mixer) featuring us and local keynote speakers also committed to sustainability. We research the products we use in our merchandise (blank clothing and tote bags) and packages (PPE, attendee packages, etc.) so we are sure that we are using sustainable and ethical products! We're currently using Royal Wholesale for our blank apparel, USA based company. In our PPE donations, we reduced the number of disposable masks, replacing them with extra cotton masks to account for trash and reducing landfill (also from Royal). These are a few initiatives that we've worked on and are working on!

Thank you again for your support and questions! I hope I answered everything. :)

Photo of Tia Johnston Brown

I love hearing about your work and how you have made a successful project despite Covid. I’m wondering what percentage of your work is focused on sustainability and STEM. Are you the only one who shares stories of how you can help the environment through veganism, etc or do all tutors on your team interweave these lessons while tutoring.

Photo of Tiauna

Tia Johnston Brown Nick Christoforou Thank you for your kind words and support! We aim to implement sustainability in all that we do. One example is researching and using ethical products (e.g. blank apparel and items in bags or packages) and services from companies that do good for the planet and appropriately source and pay their employees. Numbers wise, 25% of our organization is focused directly on sustainability through workshops and themed community events. For example, we're hosting an eco edition pop up shop in May featuring local brands and entrepreneurs that are also focused on sustainability. The pop-up shops feature a range of members while our workshops are hosted by our team and also feature keynote speakers that share their personal experiences & tips. We offer STEM tutoring, it is more focused on the students' needs, but they are encouraged to attend our outside workshops and events. Tutors do receive training on sustainability and encouraged to share their knowledge and experience with students as they see fit!

Photo of Nick Christoforou

Tiauna, awesome work! Your organization inspires me and you've made me reflect on how I can better address these climate topics in my daily life. I echo the same question as Tia and suggest you encourage all of the tutors to integrate environmental/sustainability education into their tutoring sessions!