Rise and Thrive: Inspiring and Mentoring Teen Girls to Become Leaders

Ashley Lucas and Ashley Koranteng met when they were both undergraduates at Sullivan Foundation partner school George Mason University. Their friendship blossomed, especially when they realized they had similar goals: They wanted to find ways to inspire and help teen girls navigate growing up.

Together, they created a program called Rise and Thrive, which officially launched in September 2019. The program is aimed at cultivating a community of “young ladies that will grow into women who are confident, intelligent, and leaders in all aspects of life through mentorship, education and experience,” according to the Rise and Thrive website.

Related: De’Angelo Wynn, Shenandoah University SGA president and combat veteran, joins social-justice protests in Virginia

“Sometimes young girls don’t have someone in their lives who is closer in age than their parents to inspire them. Our program is intended to encourage young girls to chase their dreams and help give them the tools to do so,” said Koranteng, who was a member of the Honors College while an undergraduate at Mason and graduated with a BS in community health. She is currently pursuing a master’s in public health in epidemiology at Mason.

Over the past year, Koranteng and Lucas have been working with local schools to implement their programming. The original (pre-pandemic) concept was for Koranteng and Lucas to meet in person with teen girls once a week, either during or after school for a safe space to talk. In these meetings, Koranteng and Lucas would guide participants in discussions about such topics as healthy lifestyles and appropriate use of social media. In addition, the program is intended to help participants with etiquette, professional development, academic enrichment and responsible finances.

Ashley Lucas and Ashley Koranteng

“We wanted to help girls in the areas that they aren’t necessarily taught in school, but [which] are important for their growth,” said Lucas, who was on the women’s track and field team while at Mason and graduated with a degree in biology. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in nutrition and integrative health at the Maryland University of Integrative Health.

Some of their plans include practical instruction. For example, Koranteng and Lucas want to teach girls the etiquette for formatting emails to professors and potential employers. “It seems small, but girls aren’t necessarily taught this. And it can make a big impact on how they are perceived,” said Koranteng,

Most important, however, they wanted teen girls to have a place to talk, where every voice was heard, no matter their background, Koranteng said.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, Koranteng and Lucas have had to change their plans to offer their program virtually instead of in-person. They are working on a pricing model for implementing the conversations online. While virtual meetups would look different than in-person, they also allow the program to potentially reach teen girls across the country.

“With more girls attending school virtually, they have Chromebooks and hot spots, so they could participate and may be in even greater need of mentorship,” Lucas said.

This summer, they hosted a six-week session, with about 80 participants meeting online once a week, from all parts of the United States and Canada.

Jacquelyn Somuah’s 15-year-old daughter has been participating in the summer program. “It’s been good. It’s kept her happy and busy,” Somuah said. “They play games and talk about things. I’m glad she has a group of girls to talk to.”

Somuah, who lives in Dumfries, Virginia, added that having young women leading the program is helpful. “She is more likely to listen to them when they give advice because they are like big sisters,” Somuah said.

Koranteng agreed that the summer program has been successful. “We hope to reach more teen girls in the fall,” she said.

This article was edited slightly from the original version appearing on the George Mason University website.

Shenandoah SGA President: “We Really Have the Power to Make Change”

When De’Angelo Wynn, an MBA student and president of the Student Government Association at Sullivan Foundation partner school Shenandoah University, joined with fellow students and community members for a protest against police brutality and racial injustice in downtown Winchester, Va., last May, he quickly realized he was “where I was supposed to be.”

The march was inspired by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, a seminal event that touched off a massive protest movement nationwide. On that day in Winchester, the protestors carried signs and chanted “No justice, no peace,” and “Say his name: George Floyd.” Their march took a path that eventually led to a roundabout outside the Timbrook Public Safety Center, which houses the City of Winchester’s police force. Toward the end of the event, a police officer clasped hands with two of the protesters.

Related: Guilford College art professor’s paintings capture plight of systemic racism

Prior to the march, Wynn, a military veteran who served in Afghanistan, spontaneously addressed the crowd of protesters. Afterwards, he came to realize that social change is possible, even when it comes to racial justice—an issue that has plagued the United States since its founding.

“While participating, I felt like I was where I was supposed to be,” Wynn said later. “The energy and emotion were palpable. The love and unity were amazing, and for once I felt like, ‘Damn, we really have the power to make change.’”

Wynn, who grew up in Georgia in “a huge brown family,” said he and his family members have always experienced racism—judicial, educational, and within society at large.

“Seeing the unfair treatment that members of my family had to deal with made me angry and frustrated even many years later,” he recalled. “So when I witnessed the murder of George Floyd, I saw my brother. I saw my uncle. I saw my mother. Therefore, I couldn’t remain silent. I had to come out to the protest to be heard. Enough is enough.”

Prior to enrolling at Shenandoah, Wynn served as a bodyguard for chaplains during combat deployments in Afghanistan and also traveled on “hero flights,” where fallen service members were given last rites. His non-combat deployments took him to South Korea; Okinawa, Japan; the French territory of New Caledonia in the South Pacific; The Philippines; and Brunei, a tiny country on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. During his deployments in these countries, he participated in projects like teaching English and building orphanages and a school.

Wynn received a medical discharge due to bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders and an Achilles tendon rupture. At Shenandoah, he became president of the campus organization, Shenandoah Veterans and Supporters, and took time to let his body heal. He eventually became a Crossfit instructor and host of a popular weekly fitness class called “Dance Party With De’Angelo.”

Related: Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Josh Nadzam raises funds for NAACP with 26-mile marathon called Run for Black Lives

The coronavirus pandemic was already in full swing at the time of the racial justice protest in Winchester, but Wynn said he didn’t fear for his safety during the event. “However, in the lens of the Covid pandemic, I never forgot the threat of the virus; it’s just [that] racism and social injustice took back their platform as the biggest pandemics in America, and, in that moment, I had to tackle those.”

Wynn said the Winchester protest was necessary—and it made an impact. “I believe that the protest helped to bring awareness to the fact that serious discussion and action are needed to address racism, social injustice and police brutality in America,” he said. “We joined with hundreds within this community and an untold number of people around the world to say enough is enough.”

Once the protests end, he said, those dedicated to dismantling racist policy can’t let up on their work. “We must continue to be agents of change by utilizing our voice and presence,” he said. “However, most importantly, it is my goal to bring awareness to the power of our vote.”

This article was adapted from two stories—here and here—about De’Angelo Wynn on the Shenandoah University website.

Guilford College Art Professor’s Paintings Capture Plight of Systemic Racism

Antoine Williams, an assistant professor of art at Sullivan Foundation partner school Guilford College, recently auctioned his mixed-media work on Instagram in support of racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“All of the figures in the painting are small within this distressed surface, so it’s all of us—Black people within a system of racism. We are in this system of economic and racial oppression. We are still people, and we still navigate it, and we still do the best that we can,” Williams explained.

Related: Past Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Josh Nadzam raises funds for NAACP With Run for Black Lives marathon

The two pieces included in the auction were selected from Williams’ “There Will Be No Miracles Here” series, based on Casey Gerald’s book of the same name. Both the novel and the artwork serve as memoirs of each man’s experience with racial identity and systemic power injustices.

“The series overall is about memory,” Williams said. “It’s about these people that I grew up with that I love, but as a kid you look at them as superheroes. Adults are something else when you are a kid, and then you grow up and you realize they are, like all of us, flawed individuals. Then you get older, and I am taking a look back, realizing these are individuals who were within this system.”

Williams also worked with local North Carolina art institutions that have exhibited his work to donate to the cause. “There is conversation in the art world around white-led art institutions who benefit greatly from Black creative labor but don’t do enough to address anti-blackness and white supremacy,” he said. “Them taking part in the fundraiser was a way of having these institutions engage, past Instagram posts, in a way that affects the lives of actual Black people.”

Related: This Houston organization aims to break the school-to-prison pipeline for disadvantaged youth

At Guilford, Williams takes these lessons beyond his work and into the classroom, where he teaches students the importance of art in social movements. With protests for racial equality taking place across the community, he wants to serve as a reminder that advocacy can take on many forms. “Everyone doesn’t have the ability to be on the front line at a protest. But we all have skills and resources that can benefit the movement that may not be on the frontlines,” he said.

Williams joins many local artists who have been sharing their work on social media and across downtown Greensboro. “Public art can be a double-edged sword in that it can employ artists and spread awareness. But it can also be used as symbolic gestures in place of actual systemic change. It becomes a backdrop without any real action,” he said.

While he doesn’t have expectations for viewers of his work, Williams said he hopes that those who see his pieces and other public Black Lives Matter artwork will also take the time to educate themselves on how to dismantle white supremacy.

This article was edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Guilford College website.

The Run for Black Lives: Josh Nadzam Raises Funds for NAACP in 26-Mile Marathon

Josh Nadzam, a 2012 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner and graduate of the University of Kentucky, has never been the kind of person who runs away from problems—he runs to solve them. Raised by a single mother in the housing projects of Pittsburgh, Nadzam used his talent and skills as a scholar-athlete to escape grinding poverty, winning a full scholarship with the Wildcats’ track and field team and becoming one of the top milers in the SEC.

More recently he ran to bring awareness to another problem: police brutality and racial inequity. Nadzam, a social entrepreneur and cofounder of On the Move Art Studio in Lexington, Kentucky, ran 26 miles from Lexington to Frankfort, Kentucky, in a fundraiser for the Kentucky NAACP on Friday, June 19. Despite conceiving and organizing the event in less than a week, he ended up raising more than $7,000 from 130 donors. Prior to the marathon, we asked Nadzam to talk about his commitment to social justice, the Black Lives Matter movement and his belief that “an injustice to one is an injustice to all.”

Related: How Josh Nadzam outran poverty and uses art to change kids’ lives

Sullivan Foundation: What inspired you to take this on? How did you get the idea?

Josh Nadzam: Racism, discrimination and the injustices experienced by black Americans are completely unacceptable, and I want to do everything I can to play my role in dismantling the systemic structures that perpetuate these issues. I want to be an ally, fight for social justice, and make our country welcoming and fair for all Americans. I’m always trying to think of various ways I can effect change, so in addition to policy changes, protests, and other forms of activism, I believe each one of us has a set of skills we can use to contribute to the cause. Mine happens to be running. So I thought I could raise awareness for this issue and also raise funds for an organization that is constantly fighting this battle by running from my home city to our capitol in Kentucky.

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Josh Nadzam crosses the finish line in the Wesley Waddle 5K Run in 2017.

Sullivan Foundation: What does the Black Lives Matter movement mean to you personally?

Nadzam: To me, it is an expression that the black community feels like their lives do not matter as much as other lives. It’s a rallying cry to draw attention to deep, systemic issues that have existed for centuries. One of my favorite quotes is, “An injustice to one is an injustice to all.” So, while I’ll never be able to relate to what it is like to be black in America, if anyone hurts in America, then I hurt, too. Their pain is my pain. We’re all in this together, so I won’t rest until we fix this.

Sullivan Foundation: I know you’re a physically fit guy, but 26 miles! Wow! Will this be a breeze for you, or do you see it as a serious challenge?

Nadzam: It’s definitely going to be challenging, but, fortunately, I’ve run a few marathons before which are 26.2 miles, so I at least have an idea of what it’ll feel like. But it’ll still be hard—and very hot that day!

Sullivan Foundation: Do you have other people running with you?

Nadzam: There is at least one other person who is going to run the whole way with me. A few others have expressed interest in running a portion of it with me. I wish we could have a ton of people run, but, unfortunately, there isn’t really a safe route to run from Lexington to Frankfort with a large crowd.

Sullivan Foundation: As more and more young people begin to join this protest movement, what do you think they need to know to serve as effective allies?

Nadzam: I think what we all need to do as effective allies is to listen, be humble, approach these situations without defensiveness, and recognize as white people that we have privileges that allow us to navigate America in a much different and safer way than people of color. Also, this fight is a marathon, not a sprint. While it is “trending” right now, this issue is going to take decades to resolve. We need everyone to get engaged and stay engaged long after this conversation fades away from the national spotlight.

Postscript: Ten people joined Nadzam for part of the 26-mile run with one person, Gavin Galanes, completing it with him. “The sun was unforgiving, and there was no shade the entire way,” Nadzam later posted on Instagram. “I got pretty sick once I was home, but it was all worth it.”

Cadet Leader at The Citadel Walks 24 Hours Straight to Learn Empathy With Black Americans

Cadet Colonel Richard “Ben” Snyder, the regimental commander for the class of 2020 at Sullivan Foundation partner school The Citadel, took a long, long walk to nowhere earlier this month—around and around on a circular track for 24 hours nonstop. The project’s stated purpose was to generate funds for the International African-American Museum in Charleston, S.C., but, for Snyder, it also served as a journey into empathy, understanding and compassion—and a chance to raise awareness of why so many black Americans and their allies are protesting in the streets today.

“I chose a track to replicate the monotonous walk felt by peaceful protestors as they search for a means to an end,” Snyder explained in a post for the GoFundMe campaign. “I wanted to do something simple, tangible, peaceful and positive for the African-American community in a city that means a lot to me.”

Related: Honors student who fed thousands and rape survivor advocate receive Sullivan Awards at The Citadel

Snyder said he decided to raise money for the International African-American Museum on the advice of a friend who “feels preserving and teaching African-American history will lead to progress.” Although he did not set a specific fundraising goal, the project raised $2,590.

Snyder, a native of Winter Park, Florida, majored in Business Administration at The Citadel and rose to the top of the school’s cadet ranks in his four-year tenure there. A commission with the U.S. Army awaits him after graduation.

this photo shows Richard "Ben" Snyder of The Citadel looking very dignified in dress blue uniform

Cadet Col. Richard “Ben” Snyder served as regimental commander for the class of 2020 at The Citadel.

In an interview published last fall on The Citadel’s website, Snyder called on his fellow cadets to live a life of servant leadership. “I wish more people lived to serve others rather than themselves, according to the servant-leader model we learn about here at The Citadel,” Snyder said. “I believe too many individuals are focused on themselves, therefore crippling parts of our society.”

After talking the talk, Snyder walked the walk of servant leadership months later with his fundraiser, which he dubbed “24 Hours for Charleston.”

“I think being alone with my thoughts, going in circles for 24 hours, will allow me to empathize with African-Americans that have walked for generations, have felt alone, and still not arrived at any final destination,” Snyder wrote prior to the day of his walk. “It is important to me because I believe this is a simple way any young man or woman can be a part of the solution—by looking for an opportunity to be there for a neighbor, a friend, or even a stranger that has been mistreated.”

Snyder said he ultimately walked a little over 56 miles in the 24-hour period without ever leaving the track. But the project was as much an exercise in empathy as a workout for his body, as he explained in a summary of the journey.

“I tried to put myself into the shoes of others and empathize with their circumstances as well as their perspectives,” he wrote. “I walked in boots, I walked in the rain, I walked barefoot through the briars and glass on the field, and I walked in my shoes. I tried to understand what it would be like to live as an oppressed African-American growing up in communities with unequipped local public schools, growing up with divided households where siblings sometimes have to raise each other while the mother works, growing up with racism in the more common moments that often go unnoticed by the rest of society, and the more extreme moments that have compelled millions to begin their own long walks for equality. I also tried to understand what it would be like to be a good police officer having to go home to his/her family each day and explain to his children why there are people burning their cars or why there are people villainizing their father/mother. I even tried to understand how a racist arrives at their point of view of the world.”

At the 4 p.m. mark of the walk, he said, “I felt nothing. There was no sense of accomplishment and no moment of validation for the miles I had walked. I would walk lap after lap, hour after hour, with my head looking down at my feet only to look up to see I was in the exact same place as I was the last time I had looked up. I imagine that is what it feels like as an African-American [who] has walked for hours and protested, only to go home in the evening feeling as though nothing has changed.”

this photo shows Richard Ben Snyder marching in formation for The Citadel's Class Ring presentation

Richard Benjamin Snyder, right, leads the way to The Citadel’s 2019 Class Ring presentation. (photo by Stanton Adams)

“No one has the right to tell a group of oppressed people how to protest—absolutely not,” Snyder continued. “But when I see a group of people come together and greet hatred with open arms, when I see African-Americans overcome every challenge life throws at them, surpass the odds, and still accomplish goals with such humility, knowing there are other people who did the same thing only working half as hard—it leaves me in awe. I don’t think there is any better depiction of what it means to be a Godly man or woman.”

Snyder ended his post on an optimistic note. “Maybe one day we will walk our final lap,” he mused. “One day we will walk as a society, turn the corner, and see a blue ribbon in the distance, a moment of validation, a sense of accomplishment—a finish line where all people are equal. But until then—we will walk. Never quit. Never compromise your character for the actions of lesser people. Never lose your joy. But, most importantly, know there will always be people that you will never know willing to walk with you and for you until their bones break—that you are never alone.”

Video: Why Mary Kay, Inc. Is Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs

Mary Kay, Inc. last fall launched the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator, a multipartner initiative designed to inspire, educate and empower women entrepreneurs around the world. In this interview with Kevin Edwards of Real Leaders Magazine, Deborah Gibbins, COO of Mary Kay, Inc., describes the program, its goals and its partners, including six United Nations agencies, and also talks about what being a leader means to her.

Related: Mary Kay, Inc. aims to empower women with Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator

Gibbins notes that her company was founded by Mary Kay Ash, “who got frustrated because she had trainees promoted above her all the time, so she created her own company to create opportunities (for women) … When women kind of get frustrated and they see lack of opportunities, often they turn to starting their own businesses. Women are really at a disadvantage when it comes to funding, access to mentors, access to networks … so there’s so much work that has to happen, and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

About Real Leaders Magazine: Located on the web at real-leaders.com, Real Leaders Magazine is the world’s first sustainable business and leadership magazine. Real Leaders aims to inspire better leaders for a better world, a world of far-sighted, sustainable leadership that helps find solutions to the problems that 7.5 billion people have created on a small planet. Click here to subscribe to Real Leaders. For more Real Leaders video content, check out their Youtube page here.

Mary Kay, Inc. Aims to Empower Women Through Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator

Mary Kay Inc., a global marketing company specializing in beauty, skin care and makeup products, aims to inspire, educate and empower women around the world with its new Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator, a multipartner initiative launched in late 2019.

The initiative is a strategic collaboration developed in consultation with six United Nations agencies: UN Women; United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP); the International Labour Organization (ILO); the International Trade Centre (ITC); UN Global Impact; and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Related video: Why Mary Kay, Inc. Is Accelerating Women’s Entrepreneurship

According to a Mary Kay press release, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator will offer a guided digital curriculum supplemented by on-the-ground training and mentorship. In addition, it will serve as an advocacy platform to eliminate entrepreneurial roadblocks for women, ranging from digital literacy to legal reform—enabling women to fully participate in the growth of their local and national economies.

The Accelerator will support global efforts to encourage businesses to establish and expand relationships with women-owned businesses, including corporate procurement. Future expansion of the program will include funding opportunities accessible to women who complete the curriculum.

“Mary Kay has empowered women through entrepreneurship and supported their aspirations for financial security and independence for more than 56 years,” said Deborah Gibbins, Chief Operating Officer of Mary Kay. “Private and public-sector organizations must work together to ensure all women entrepreneurs have access to the tools and education they need to make their dreams of financial independence a reality, lifting up their families and communities.”

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The Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator initially will be available in six languages, with more to come as the program expands to 192 countries. The Accelerator also will convene an advisory committee of entrepreneurs, celebrities and advocates to oversee the expansion and promotion of the program.

“An informed woman with money in her pocket is an empowered woman. With the growing number of female innovators active today, women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment are strongly on the rise,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women. “The advocates from across the world who are joining forces to create the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator will enable more women than ever to become knowledgeable entrepreneurs, cultivate financial independence, and support their local communities.”

“At ITC we look forward to joining the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator through our SheTrades Initiative to achieve real progress on achieving SDG5 to empower all women and girls,” said Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre. “With this partnership we will empower women and girls to pursue their entrepreneurship dreams and equip them with the skills needed to turn those dreams into business success.”

The Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator is the latest in a series of recent steps taken by Mary Kay to empower women and improve their lives around the world. Earlier this year, Mary Kay added its name to a growing roster of businesses and corporations committing to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, a joint project of the UN Global Compact and UN Women developed to emphasize the business case for corporate action to promote gender equality. Mary Kay is also a signatory of the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. During the United Nations General Assembly, Mary Kay will sponsor the WE Empower UN SDG Challenge, the first global business competition for women entrepreneurs convened by renowned fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

The Quest for Water: Elizabeth De Wetter Organizes 6K Fundraiser to Build Wells in Zambia

Water covers roughly 71 percent of the earth’s surface, yet there’s not nearly enough of it for millions of people in developing countries. In their never-ending search for  water, women and children around the world walk an average of six kilometers or 3.7 miles every day—and the precious little water they can find is often contaminated.

The irony is not lost on Elizabeth De Wetter, a past attendee of the Sullivan Foundation’s Ignite Retreat and a sophomore majoring in psychology at Sullivan Foundation partner school Sewanee: The University of the South. That’s why she and her team at Strong Women Strong World (SWSW) next gen are working to raise funds for two wells in Zambia while also promoting the upcoming World Vision Global 6K for Water, to be held remotely around the planet on May 16.

Related: “Pledge My Check” campaign asks financially stable Americans to donate their stimulus checks to help people in need

SWSW next gen is a pilot initiative launched in conjunction with World Vision and Brake the Cycle. De Wetter’s project is an offshoot of the World Vision Global 6K—it will raise money for World Vision while providing participants a chance to pay whatever they can afford to enter instead of the standard $50 registration fee. “We realize that many people are struggling financially right now and may not be able to donate that amount,” De Wetter said. “SWSW next gen is offering a sliding scale registration fee for our 6K so everyone who wants to participate can—any amount or nothing at all is OK.”

Anyone who signs up to participate in the race through SWSW next gen’s online registration form can also make a donation towards building the wells in Zambia, helping to ensure clean water for two communities in that country. To learn more or to sign up to participate, click here.

this is a photo illustrating the World Vision Global 6K for Water

Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the dynamics of fundraising events like the World Vision Global 6K. “Instead of the typical format of a race, where we would start and finish at the same points, we are encouraging individuals and their families to participate from their own treadmill, neighborhood streets or trails, while respecting social distancing,” De Wetter said.

De Wetter has long been passionate about clean water accessibility and discovered she could make a difference by joining SWSW next gen. “When I heard the statistic that, each day, women and girls around the world will walk the distance of the moon and back to gather clean water, I was shaken,” she recalled. “I was blessed enough to be welcomed by multiple members of the organization who immediately helped me get involved and later encouraged me to contribute with my own projects, which is where the idea for doing our own 6K came from.”

Related: Two Wofford College social entrepreneurs plant a SEED. for global change

De Wetter knows the scarcity of clean water doesn’t just mean people sometimes go thirsty. “Something as simple as a lack of clean water erases almost any and all opportunities for education, in addition to contributing to poor health, hygiene and sanitation, which in turn leads to disease and death,” De Wetter notes. “Each day 1,000 children under the age of five will die from diarrhea caused by contaminated water. These deaths are totally preventable!”

photo of woman in Africa who must deal every day with a lack of clean water

Water scarcity is a gender issue equity in developing countries. Women and girls must collect water for their families every day, which prevents them from getting an education, working at a job or starting a business.

Additionally, since women and girls are typically responsible for collecting water, it’s a gender equity issue as well. “This often keeps them out of school, which means that instead of learning and preparing for a job or starting their own business, they are at an increased risk of assault, child marriage, childbirth mortality and continued poverty,” De Wetter said.

Something as simple as digging a functional well can transform a community in a country like Zambia. “We can provide clean water to an entire village of around 300 people by building a well that costs $15,000,” De Wetter said. “This will allow girls to attend school rather than spending all day gathering water for their families. It will provide women and girls with a means to care for their menstrual hygiene instead of having to put their lives on hold each month. It will free families to focus on their education, businesses and livelihoods rather than spending hours collecting water that will only make them sick.”

De Wetter adds that a donation of $50 can provide clean water to one person for their entire lifetime.

Related: Elon Musk’s brother wants to build a “super farm” to address food insecurity

photo of Elizabeth De Wetter

Elizabeth De Wetter

De Wetter’s interest in changemaking led her to the Sullivan Foundation’s Fall 2019 Ignite Retreat, which she described as “an amazing experience in so many ways.”

“The mentors who spoke and led groups over the weekend were so inspiring, encouraging, and passionate that you couldn’t help but get excited about making a difference,” she recalled. “It was an experience that shifted not only the way I think about problem solving but also my belief in humanity. Being surrounded by so many other young people who also want to make a difference and are actually doing so gave me so much hope!”

De Wetter has found her tribe of fellow changemakers with World Vision and SWSW next gen and wants to continue to enlighten others about clean water and its impact on basic human rights. “I am disturbed by so many of the injustices in the world and passionate about making whatever impact I can during my lifetime,” she said. “This is an area where I can actually make a very tangible impact in a relatively short period of time and truly change people’s lives just by getting the word out, raising awareness and money, and educating people on the importance of clean water. What a miraculous way to use some of my numerous blessings to help others!”

Scottish Social Venture Leads World’s Big Sleep Out Fundraiser for the Homeless

For the homeless, sleeping under the stars isn’t a choice—they’ve got nowhere else to go. Now one of Scotland’s best-known social enterprises has a plan to show more privileged people—including wealthy celebrities—how that feels, while trying to raise $50 million for homelessness and refugee causes around the world.

Social Bite Café, which provides free food to the homeless and the hungry at its five restaurants in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, has organized The World’s Big Sleep Out in at least 50 towns and cities around the globe. Actors Will Smith and Helen Mirren and Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin have committed to participate. To better understand the homelessness experience, at least 50,000 people will sleep outside on the night of Dec. 7, 2019, in places like Times Square in New York and Trafalgar Square in London as well as Chicago, Madrid, Belfast, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Manila and many other cities.

For college-age students with an interest in social enterprises like Social Bite, Scotland will be the destination for the Sullivan Foundation’s next study-abroad program in the summer of 2020. Running from June 4-July 4, the program will focus on leadership and social entrepreneurship. Click here for more information.


Josh Littlejohn, Social Bite’s co-founder, said anyone is welcome to join the sleep-out. “Whether you’re sleeping out at an official event or you’re hosting your own sleep-out in your back garden, for one night let’s walk in the shoes of people that we would normally walk past,” he said in a recent video promoting the event.

Founded in 2012 by Littlejohn and his partner, Alice Thompson, Social Bite Café is a chain of five sandwich shops that gave away more than 140,000 free, high-quality food and drink items last year to people in need. As part of the chain’s “pay it forward” model, other customers pay for their own meals and donate money to provide food to less fortunate guests.

Related: Get hands-on experience with social innovation in the Sullivan Foundation’s Selma Community Innovation Immersion Program in Selma, Alabama.

More than a social venture, Social Bite quickly evolved into a popular and highly competitive brand with a reputation that has spread across the UK—not to mention the Atlantic Ocean. The company has drawn attention—and donations—from actors Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney and Chris Evans. In February 2018, the UK’s Prince Harry and his wife, actress Meghan Markel, both advocates of social entrepreneurship, visited one of Social Bite’s Edinburgh locations, met the staff and toured the kitchen.

this photo shows success of Social Bite Cafe in promoting the World's Big Sleep Out to celebrities

The UK’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markel, both advocates of social entrepreneurship, toured the Social Bite Cafe kitchen and met with staff in February 2018.

Thompson and Littlejohn were inspired by Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist Professor Muhammad Yunus to launch the eatery. “Since the beginning, we had that attitude that it was not going to be a small, one-off café,” Thompson told RestoConnection. “We made sure the branding looked very corporate. We wanted Social Bite to look like a shop that could be opened somewhere else.”

From the start, Thompson and Littlejohn used their profits to operate projects that benefit the homeless—and made sure everyone knew it. “We communicated on our social mission,” Thompson told RestoConnection. “We made clear that we were giving profits away and that by coming to us, customers could contribute to something better. Our mission attracted the local press and then the national press. I think the branding and the way we dealt with the press helped us (in) competing with high-end brands.”

this photo shows popularity of Social Bite Cafe with celebrities

George Clooney visited Social Bite Cafe in 2015 and posed for photos with the staff.

After opening their first Social Bite Cafe location, Thomas and Littlejohn befriended a homeless man and often gave him food and drinks. They eventually hired him as a dishwasher. “Then, one day he said he had a brother that was also homeless and would like to work for us,” Thompson recalled. “We employed him as well, and then they had friends who also wanted to work … And we thought that employing homeless people should be part of our business model. From that day forward, we decided that at least ¼ of all our employees should come from a homeless background.”

Related: This social enterprise trains blind women in early detection of breast cancer.

With Chef Dean Gassabi of Maison Bleue, Social Bite also operates Vesta Bar & Kitchen in the west end of Edinburgh. It serves Scottish and French cuisine, donating 50 percent of its profits to charities and causes selected by staff members while the other half goes back to Social Bite. Another shrewdly branded social business, Vesta is known for slogans like “Feel Good Food, Feel Good Actions,” “Eat One, Treat One” and “Get Lunch, Give Lunch.”

this photo shows what the founders of Social Bite Cafe and the World's Big Sleep Out look like

Alice Thompson and Josh Littlejohn are the brains behind both Social Bite Cafe and its homeless program, the World’s Big Sleep Out.

The journey to pulling off December’s international sleep-out began in 2016. The Social Bite owners wanted to help Scottish business executives better empathize with homeless individuals. They organized the CEO Sleepout, in which 350 business leaders slept outside on a cold November night. The event raised more than £550,000 and led to another fundraiser, Sleep in the Park, in 2017. For that campaign, billed as “the world’s largest-ever sleepout,” 8,000 people slept outside at Princes Street Garden and helped raise more than £4 million. They repeated the event in 2018 with 10,000 people in four Scottish cities and brought in nearly £8 million for their quest to end homelessness.

The success of those sleep-outs led to this year’s global event. Social Bite has also developed a similar event for schoolchildren called the Wee Sleep Out. Fifty percent of the funds raised will support local charities in participating cities, while the other half will go to global charities, including the Malala Fund, UNICEF USA and the Institute of Global Homelessness. The ultimate goal is to help 1 million homeless and displaced people worldwide.

Related: The world’s top plastic polluters say they will join the fight to reduce plastic waste.

This Houston Organization Aims to Break the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Disadvantaged Youths

Keeping more young people in school will keep them out of prison and on track for better job opportunities, and that’s the goal of Eight Million Stories, launched by Marvin Pierre in Houston.

Eight Million Stories is an alternative education program that helps young ex-offenders re-enter society, complete their GEDs and find jobs. The four-month program, which serves youths age 16 to 18, is designed “to help students build meaningful relationships in their community, access a wide range of social services, develop critical life and job skills, complete their education (GED), and secure meaningful employment,” Pierre said in a Q&A for the TNTP blog.

A longtime educator who has also worked in the investment banking industry, Pierre developed Eight Million Stories while he was a TNTP Bridge Fellow. The program is voluntary, and students must opt in and first commit to a two-week onboarding session.

According to the organization’s website, students spend half of their time taking GED classes and preparing for the GED Test. About 40 percent of their time is spent in job training programs offered through YouthBuild Texas. Here, they take occupational skills classes and can earn a stipend working for local businesses. They can also work toward earning one of four credentials: the NCCER Core Credential; the Multi-Craft Core Credential; the Customer Service and Sales Credential; and the Office Essentials Credential.

They also participate in enrichment programming to develop their leadership skills and learn by performing community service.

Eight Million Stories founder Marvin Pierre (right) with a program participant

“We believe that there are a lot of commonalities in terms of why kids end up in the juvenile justice system, whether it’s broken homes or lack of support in the school system or other factors,” Pierre told TNTP. “If you interview every kid in the system, you’ll find there’s a common thread. That’s what we’re trying to undo. If we attack those commonalities, then we can aggressively work to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.”

The program can also help young people escape poverty and reduce the country’s prison population. Above all, it gives them a chance to redefine themselves. “For young people involved in the juvenile justice system, society has written their stories for them,” Pierre noted. “We want our students to learn from their past mistakes and be in a position to rewrite their own stories.”