Procurify believes in people and organizations that are working to find a better way in their communities and the world at large. We chatted with Amit Samdhu, founder of Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad (YELL) to talk about what he is doing to find a better way to educate and inspire young entrepreneurs in his community.
YELL is the Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad, a federally registered Not-for-Profit Organization that provides innovative mentor-based entrepreneurship and leadership programming for high school students. YELL was founded in early 2013, with our pilot program being launched in partnership with the West Vancouver School District in the Fall of that year. YELL Entrepreneurship 12 is currently available as an accredited course to students in 23 schools across three districts: West Vancouver, Richmond and Coquitlam. The program consists of a business accelerator with weekly guest speakers, a mentor-supported business model development phase and a venture challenge that brings students from all districts together for a competition.
Why did you decide to found YELL, and why is the initiative important to you?
My partners Punit Dhillon, Rattan Bagga and I understood the need for a highly collaborative model of education that would allow business and community leaders to engage with students in a practical, project-based, multi-disciplinary learning environment. The goal was to empower the next generation of problem solvers. Having grown up in B.C., the only exposure I had to business through high school was through Marketing and Accounting courses. However, being from an entrepreneurial family, from a young age I understood the business world to be largely about problem solving. My partners and I had similar experiences growing up and wanted to create a scalable platform that would allow any student interested in learning about entrepreneurship an opportunity to learn first-hand from the many great leaders in their own community.
The YELL initiative is important to me because I believe we will be able to build both stronger economies and stronger communities if we are successful in scaling this model. It’s important for us to inspire the next generation by showing them the exciting things that are happening in their backyard, through direct interaction with the people involved in these exciting ventures and projects. Another reason this program is important is that it allow students to tap into their creative abilities and gives them a level of flexibility, autonomy and responsibility over their course work that they may not be used to having in a traditional course.
We want students to become better problem solvers and leaders. One of the ways we do this is through our Great Challenges class, where we introduce issues affecting our students as global citizens. YELL also builds a strong leadership base for students through different workshops, these could include understanding different personality types and how to work in teams or the reframing of failure as a part of the innovation process, rather than an end point. If we are to rely on our next generation to lead us to a brighter future, they must be unafraid of failure and willing to come up with several creative solutions to the day’s pressing issues.
Do you believe that you are finding a better way for students to learn about entrepreneurship with your program?
Yes, we are definitely finding a better way for students to learn about entrepreneurship and leadership. Through our partnership with Entrepreneurship@UBC, I believe we may be developing the most advanced programming for a high school entrepreneurship course in the country. By adopting similar teaching practices and content as the accelerator program at e@UBC, our students should also be better prepared for the transition from high school to post-secondary. YELL students are also supported by D2L’s leading e-learning platform and get to visit local businesses through a special field trip. When we mix our awesome network of teachers and mentors with this curriculum and infrastructure, I’m certain YELL creates great learning outcomes in the communities we serve.
What has the response been like?
We have had overwhelming interest from school district administrators, educators and the community at large. In our first two years, the program has been oversubscribed in both West Vancouver and Coquitlam. Since launch we have been fortunate to work with so many talented educators and our team is growing with passionate people who are eager to find better ways to design and deliver the curriculum to students in their districts. We currently have interest from several districts wanting to adopt the program and will be managing our growth responsibly so that we can maintain the quality of programming and level of attention each district receives as we expand.
What’s next for YELL?
I’m excited for what’s to come as I feel we are just getting started at YELL. We will continue to grow our team internally as well as our mentor networks and supporting community. This will be important as we prepare to expand into new districts and offer programs to more students throughout B.C. and eventually in other provinces. We are also focused on refining our curriculum and course structure, taking what we learn from this year’s program through teacher and student feedback to enhance the offering for next year.
Anything else you would like to add?
The success of the YELL model has only been possible through the tremendous support we have had from teachers, mentors and guest speakers in the community. I’d like to thank everyone who has been part of the journey so far and I look forward to welcoming the many individuals who will help us inspire youth across Canada as we grow.
Amit has been instrumental in the launch of several innovative education models, including the Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad (YELLCanada.org). Amit and his partners have the audacious goal of reforming business education at high schools across Canada. In 2014, Amit also collaborated with leaders at Emily Carr University of Art + Design and the City of Richmond to launch an innovative undergraduate course on the social practice of Public Art.
A key guiding philosophy for Amit’s efforts in education is that today’s challenges and tomorrow’s dynamic job markets will require more creative problem solvers and that educational innovation is the best way to respond to this change. Amit’s focus extends beyond grassroots development as he is the youngest business person ever appointed by Richmond City Council to the city’s Economic Advisory Committee, where he has served since 2011.
Amit is also co-founder of the Grind for the Mind, a social fundraising hike that has raised over $70,000 for the Mental Health Department at Richmond Hospital. In 2014, Amit was recognized by Business in Vancouver as one of the top Forty under 40 professionals in B.C. His TEDx Talk “Empowering the Next Generation of Problem Solvers” can be found online.