By Chloe Kennedy

Four students from Sullivan Foundation partner school Elon University learned how to “make a mark in the world” using social entrepreneurship at the foundation’s Fall 2020 Ignite Retreat.

Christopher Raville, Imani Vincent, Mikayla Ford and Angy Aguilar took part in the twice-yearly event, held Oct. 18-20 in Asheville, N.C. They attended workshops, activities and events focused on changemaking, honing leadership skills and the principles of social enterprise. The retreat workshops were hands-on and experimental and allowed each participant time to work on a project of their choice, gain clarity on potential career paths and dig deeper into a set of problems, all while focusing on connecting skills and interests in a way to create positive community change.

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“An activity that particularly stood out to me was about empathic listening,” said Aguilar, a computer science and entrepreneurship double major. “Students formed groups, and one person in the group shared a problem in their life that they had. We were encouraged to ask ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions rather than ‘why’ questions to really understand the problem. I found this activity very valuable as most of the time we listen to respond rather than listen to understand and empathize.”

The Elon group was among more than 100 students and young professionals in attendance who are passionate about social entrepreneurship. “Students came from all over with different problems, passions and curiosities, with the goal to make a mark in the world,” said Ford, a communication design major.

“After this weekend I know I have a community of people who understand my motivation,” added Vincent, who majors in public health. “What amazed me about the Ignite Retreat was being able to be in a space with so many people with different perspectives who all want in some way to make social change.”

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Alyssa Martina, director of the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Elena Kennedy, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, accompanied the students and met with faculty and staff from a variety of schools in the Sullivan Foundation network to learn best practices related to teaching social entrepreneurship and innovation.

“The Ignite Retreat provided a space for those of us who are deeply passionate about creating social change to interact and network with like-minded social entrepreneurs,” said Raville, a finance and entrepreneurship double major. “Workshopping my own initiative provided fresh insights on how to deliver an impactful prototype. Pitching my own initiative provided a space to practice delivering my message to a large, diverse group and left me with feedback as to how better communicate my vision.”

This story was edited slightly from the original article appearing on the Elon University website.

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