By Kehila Moreno
It’s important, now more than ever, to encourage high school students to pursue a career in social entrepreneurism. Many believe technology, such as artificial intelligence or robotics will dominate our future workforce, but opportunities in social entrepreneurship are rapidly growing. An education in social entrepreneurship should be the new norm in high schools across the country as it helps our future economy, slows the ascent of societal ills, and leverages personal interests of students through passion, purpose and performance.
San Diego is a perfect city to develop social entrepreneurism in youth. Why? A recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked our city as the fourth best place to start a business, “especially for entrepreneurs looking to solve the world’s greatest problems.” In 2018, San Diego Start-Up Week will add an “Impact Track,” which focuses on entrepreneurs with philanthropic missions and social enterprise models. San Diego is definitely a hotspot for young people to grow businesses and address challenges in our society.
But where do these young people come from? High schools. Including entrepreneurship alongside literature, history, economics, the arts, and sciences needs to start before college. When passion, purpose, and performance are entwined into every classroom discussion and assignment, it inspires students and creates learning opportunities. Students can leverage their courses with work they are truly passionate about in the community and globally. This will keep kids, like me, engaged and prepared to be a future change agent.
As a current student of social entrepreneurism, I don’t have to wait until the future to begin my work. In 2016, I began working jointly with human trafficking victims and authorities to improve communication and reduce recruitment. I remember driving to a gas station and noticing a young girl who was followed by an older man. She entered a car with what seemed to be a stranger and was with him the whole time it took me to fill up my tank and buy snacks. As she got out of the car, we locked eyes. But I did nothing. I didn’t move. I didn’t speak, nor did I act.
The experience still haunts me today. After sharing my experience with my advisory teacher, we created a plan to address human trafficking in San Diego. Through my work, I’ve learned I must be an advocate for lost voices, as silence will never solve societal ills. I’ve met with young female victims and encourage them to envision a better life for themselves. I help them learn and practice communication skills, and eventually some reconnect with their families. This is my way of being a social entrepreneur. I would not have had this awareness or ability to put my knowledge into practice if social entrepreneurism wasn’t included among my school’s “traditional” subjects.
Social entrepreneurism has helped me learn to identify issues and actively engage to find solutions to current community challenges. If these are not addressed now, it will be up to us to fix the many problems that will be left for us to solve in the future. Without entrepreneurial skills, how will my generation be able to address and solve chronic issues like homelessness, drug addiction, racism and access to affordable healthcare, when their solutions are evading those currently in leadership?
Schools that focus on social entrepreneurship are rare. I recently returned from a Basecamp Weekend at Watson University in Boulder, CO. I was just one of three high school students from across the U.S. who were chosen to receive this fellowship opportunity. The university exclusively focuses on fostering social entrepreneurism in young adults, and over three days, I absorbed as much knowledge and interaction as I could, and further built my plans to combat human trafficking here in San Diego.
A social entrepreneurship based education will give my generation the ability to fix the societal problems that we will be forced to deal with. High school teachers and administrators must hold us to a higher standard. The future is counting on us.
Kehila Moreno is a senior at The School for Entrepreneurship & Technology and a recently selected Basecamp Fellow by Watson University.
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