Teens discover social innovation at UCREW

Small groups of teens huddled together, talking about companies they admire. Apple, Google, Facebook top the lists. They spend the rest of the evening listing what makes good companies great, and what makes non-profits successful. The 60 youth come from high schools throughout the region. Together, they represent the latest class of UCREW: Cincinnati.

Formed as a school-year based student advisory board, UCREW is an outgrowth of the non-profit UGIVE.org, which gives students and young people opportunities to learn and grow through volunteering. Now in its fourth year, UCREW will create an awareness building event called AMPLIFY and, for the first time ever, launch a social business.

A the second group session of the six-month program, UCREW teens brainstormed about business ideas and causes they would love to support. From healthy living to employment training, their wide-ranging social concerns give a hint as to their awareness of the needs around them. Business ventures ranged from online services to a series of fitness classes for teens that could raise funds to support similar classes for inner-city youth.

"I'd never heard of social entrepreneurship before," says Grace Kennedy, 17, a senior at Lakota East High School. "(UCREW) really made me interested in business, which I have never been before."

In addition to planning a social business, UCREW teens take part in volunteer efforts as a group. They participate in planning and mentoring sessions, all geared to prepare them to become long-term philanthropists as well as well-rounded citizens. An added benefit? Since teens come from a wide range of high schools, UCREW offers like-minded peers opportunities to build not only a business, but also cross-town friendships.

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter.

Photo of Grace Kennedy, Joe Hansbauer and Mimi Shiba by Elissa Yancey
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