Students from the Washington D.C. area joined forces at St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School for the inaugural Social Entrepreneurial Summit on April 5. Our school welcomed 80 students from 10 high schools, all working to gain support defining their core values and passions for social change. The conference was a day of developing personalized blueprints for sustainable leadership; receiving direct mentoring from experienced social entrepreneurs, business coaches, and civic leaders; and exploring tangible strategies and building community networks for translating their social impact vision into sustainable practice.
“It's hard to talk about all the problems there are in the world, but it's really empowering to see how passionate people are about changing them,” said St. Stephen's and St. Agnes senior Christina Cavallo. “This summit has allowed for a lot of back and forth action between students and teachers bouncing ideas off of each other and working collaboratively, which has been nice!”
The conference included a session host and facilitator, summit opening speakers, and six innovative and interactive sessions. Session host and facilitator Daniel Meyer is the Founder & CEO of Under A Tree, a nonprofit organization that seeks to reclaim and redefine the meaning of leadership by empowering everyday citizens to lead socially conscious, professionally successful, and personally fulfilling lives. He was the founding CLO and later CEO of Academica Virtual Education, an international network of accredited blended and online schools serving 10,000+ students and most recently served as the COO of The Global Good Fund, empowering social entrepreneurs throughout the world. He is also a former high school teacher, counselor, and principal in South Florida and the Chicagoland area.
“I think more than ever before it’s a critical time to be able to provide young people with the opportunity to reflect critically about their core values and convictions, what they feel most passionate about in the world, and also to help them translate that awareness and passion into personal accountability,” said Daniel. “Beyond the awareness, beyond the accountability, how do we also give them the practical tools to translate a lot of the idealism, a lot of the hope for the future into realistic, practical, tangible, everyday action? What we want to do today for the students who already feel so emboldened, so positive, so certain and assured that they're gonna go out and change the world, we want to not demotivate them, but we want to make sure that they're also thinking critically through a lot of the practical realities that will inevitably present themselves along the way.”
The six summit sessions were led by St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes teachers and members of the local community. Sessions included This I Believe: Defining My Core Values; Empowering Student Social Entrepreneurs: An Educator’s Guide; Creating & Sustaining Impact: Setting an Action Plan; Mentoring in Motion: Learning from Leaders; Impact in Action: Taking the First Step; and Impact in Action: Continuing the Journey.
St. Stephen's and St. Agnes senior Blake Gillian said, “The sessions were great because it allowed us to talk about different issues that are personal to us or something we want to try to fix. Then, we worked in our groups to come up with ideas of how we can reach a solution for that issue guided by teachers.”
After lunch, students participated in the Mentoring in Motion: Learning from Leaders session where 24 experienced social entrepreneurs, business executives, nonprofit leaders, and social activists met with students in small groups to provide real-time executive mentoring.
John Repetti ’81, Founder & CEO of Sila Solutions Group, St. Stephen’s alumnus, and SSSAS parent found the format perfect for high school students and was excited to see the enthusiasm shown during his summit mentoring session. “Kids today don't want to wait until they are 50 or 60 to do something,” John said. “They want to do something today and they are not willing to wait. And so giving them a blueprint on how you can do that as your life changes, as you evolve, and as you pick up other commitments, but still able to have this sense of purpose and significance in your life is really the main goal of today’s summit.”
Social entrepreneurship is part of the Upper School curriculum at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes, where students in grades 10-12 can take the Seeding Social Innovation course. The course blends 21st-century leadership and entrepreneurship skills including global perspectives, critical thinking, teamwork, and creative problem solving with social impact. The knowledge and skills gained in this course will enable students to design and implement social action projects. The course curriculum is provided through a partnership with learnServe International.
Lauren Jordan, Seeding Social Innovation Program Director at LearnServe, served as a facilitator at the summit. “St. Stephen St. Agnes has built a culture for the students to be able to really channel those passions and put them into action. Each year, the course has a different set of really amazing projects that students are coming up with. One thing that I've really enjoyed about St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes students, in particular, is that they're really focused in on their community, and seeing the ways that they can change their school and city from within.”
The Social Entrepreneurial Program and the Social Entrepreneurship Summit are funded by the Edward E. Ford Foundation.
Learn more about the SSSAS Upper School