Regional Executive Director, BUILD
Why does BUILD teach entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is the hook, college, or a postsecondary plan, is the goal for our program. The program is all project based and hands on, it’s a great way to learn. Developing the entrepreneurial mindset is essential for students’ educational and career futures. They learn to problem-solve, to collaborate. And they learn to fail, and fail again, and to learn from that and try again. This resilience matters for high school, for college, for their eventual careers. For the rest of their lives, really.
What kind of student does BUILD work best for?
It’s a really good program for the ones who might not be as successful with traditional learning. It’s not that grades don’t matter. They do. But we offer that iterative process they don’t get in their other classes, we give good grades for effort and going through the experiential learning process, it’s not based on a test. I’m thinking of a ninth grader at Eastern High School who showed up for BUILD but really didn’t want to be there. Eventually, she became more engaged due to the strong relationship she built with the BUILD teacher and started paying more attention. Not only did she thrive in BUILD, her overall academic performance improved.
How can local professionals and entrepreneurs get involved with BUILD?
They can sign up to be mentors, coaches, and judges. They can come and share their stories. It’s just a few hours, and the students really benefit from exposure to careers they wouldn’t have otherwise heard about. They may have thought about playing in the NFL, but they hadn’t heard about sports marketing. The learning goes both ways. Our volunteers always tell us that coming to BUILD refreshes their own careers and the way they relate to their work—and their world.
You started Sela, D.C.’s Hebrew-language-immersion public charter school. How do you draw on your experience as a founder in an entrepreneurship-focused program?
Any entrepreneurial mindset I may bring actually matters less than having an educational background and an appreciation that schools are already dealing with a lot. I understand it when a principal needs to cancel a meeting or a schedule change takes away from BUILD time. We work around those challenges, which actually does show an entrepreneurial mindset.
It sounds like a constant challenge. Why do you do this work?
I believe quality education is a right for everyone, no matter what neighborhood you live in. We’re not there yet. But when you teach students how to take ownership and be creative, you take a big step toward a level playing field.