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What Happens When You Give Youth (and Yourself) the Space to Dream?

Part of learning entrepreneurial skills is learning to dream big about college, career, and life.

I'm GOOD's first Fellow, and I'm on a yearlong mission to discover the best practices in entrepreneurship education, and figure out how they are (or aren't) empowering middle and high school-aged girls. Follow and engage with me on my journey of learning and doing.

Learning: BUILD's Launch Camp

I'm two weeks into my GOOD Fellowship and I've been working with BUILD, a national nonprofit that uses entrepreneurship to ensure low-income students who might otherwise check out of the education system without finishing high school and college. I've already started learning so much—ranging from the basics of BUILD's four-year program design to the complexity of defining "entrepreneurial skills."

Attending BUILD's "Launch Camp," the BUILD term for the years programming kickoff and engaging with students and their dreams, was the biggest eye-opener thus far. I attended an "E4" launch camp in East Oakland, which is targeted to BUILD's fourth-year students—seniors in high school. A larger goal of the program's fourth and final year is to encourage students to apply the entrepreneurial skills they've learned at BUILD and dream beyond—to college, career, and life.

Netsay Ramos, a fourth-year BUILD student and entrepreneur, filled out a "dream balloon"—and the word "Eracism" popped off the page. It's an amazingly creative alteration to "racism" and it immediately showcased the limitless nature of dreams. While Netsay's dreams range from the practical ("earn money") to the amorphous ("persevere"), she taught me my first real lesson in entrepreneurial education: give youth the space to dream.

Indeed, watching Netsay and the other students fill out their dream balloons, I realized that educators and entrepreneurs get caught up in the nitty-gritty of the details too often. We could all benefit from taking the space to re-engage with our vision—both professionally and personally.

Doing: Dreaming Big

I have to dream big, too, as I define my goals for the fellowship and my year ahead. When I started, I already felt myself getting bogged down by the details and day-to-day. So I took the weekend, went on a hike to the fog-lit hills of San Francisco, and allowed myself the space to dream big, audacious—as well as small, practical—goals for the year. And, as dreams are apt to do, I'm sure they will change and evolve over the course of the next 12 months. But putting pen to paper is a start.

Here are my top three goals:

1. Face my fears.
I want to face my own insecurities and take purposeful actions to challenge them. For example I’ve always been afraid to write on a public forum, but I"m taking that leap right now!

2. Practice what I preach.
I am learning about "entrepreneurship education" and am focusing on girls. However, as a woman myself, I want to practice as many of these skills as possible. Can I teach myself financial management? How can I become a better public speaker? I will be learning from the organizations I apprentice with, but I want to open myself up to learning from unexpected avenues. From improv classes to design courses, there are so many opportunities to explore.

3. Truly listen.
I've been lucky enough in the past few weeks to have heard from so many amazing folks from around the world (thanks to the GOOD community!), from women entrepreneurs to girls in the eighth grade to creative visionaries. And I want to make sure that I truly listen, to hear what people are saying, and learn by lending a true ear.

When is the last time you found yourself dreaming big? I'd love to hear from you what your big dreams are, too, so please share those—or any other feedback or ideas for the Fellowship.

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