What problem, challenge, or opportunity is your organization/initiative engaged to address?
The main problem that my organization is addressing is the lack of opportunities for students to engage in entrepreneurship. To solve that problem I created a social enterprise called SOAR. SOAR offers a variety of opportunities for students to engage in entrepreneurship, all based on the interdisciplinary curriculum I created. I’ve been working over the past few years, with both schools and students individually to promote a passion for entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, and learning. I don't necessarily see it as a problem —more as an opportunity for innovation in that part of the education world. I know there's a lot of interest in entrepreneurship and educators who want to bring entrepreneurship to the classroom but don't know where to start, so that's one area where I’ve been able to fill a gap: providing opportunities for classrooms and then, as I mentioned as well, working with students individually through my summer camp programming to promote entrepreneurship.
What is a personal experience that has shaped your orientation to this problem?
My personal experience…I’ve always been interested in education from a young age, so prior to founding SOAR in 2018 — late 2018 and officially founded in 2019 — I was working as a French tutor in Oakville. Most students were in the French immersion program and I also tutored others in Math, English, Science, and Social Studies, so I had a lot of experience tutoring and then I also had experience in the education system by volunteering in classrooms, volunteering with camps, and sort of working in a teaching assistant role. Then, once I founded SOAR, I was able to apply more of my interests in education by gaining direct experience working in classrooms and practicing classroom management as well as assessment and evaluation, curriculum planning, lesson design. I was able to gain experience in the classroom and then, of course by designing my own program, I was able to put my personal interest into the curriculum. That is sort of reflected in the guest speakers that we have and in some of the topics addressed in the lessons. I'm very interested in creativity and storytelling, so I find ways to incorporate those interests into my curriculum.
Reflecting on your entrepreneurial journey, what is an element that makes you proud?
I think one element that makes me proud in my entrepreneurship journey is the fact that I’ve really been a one-man-band so far. I founded SOAR by myself and I'm currently working by myself. I do seek support in terms of asking for advice from colleagues and friends, but mainly everything that I have done has been created by me. I feel proud reflecting on the progress that I've achieved so far in terms of getting to work in a number of schools and working with lots of students across the country and the world, in relation to the fact that I am still one person. My offerings are quite expansive compared to some other organizations with similar missions who have teams of people working for them.
What is something you are currently grappling with?
One challenge, as I mentioned before, is that I am working on my own. It can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. The challenge is always getting the word out about my programs because, of course, the more students who participate, the greater impact there will be, so I like to encourage people to join and participate in the various SOAR programs. Getting the word out can always be tricky because there's only so much time in the day to spend on advertising and marketing, and I only have so many resources on my own to devote to that. I am also studying full time at the University of Toronto as well, so it’s always going to be a balancing act to manage my commitments with SOAR and with school. Fortunately this past year I've been able to still work with SOAR while succeeding in my academic endeavours as well.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
If any of the educators, students, or professionals in the OISE network are interested in learning about SOAR, please reach out. The website is https://soaredu.ca/ and SOAR is very active on social media. Registration is now open for the August session of the SOAR Summer Innovation Camp which starts on August 3, so definitely check that out if you have a child in that age group or IF you're in that age group and are interested in joining. We have lots of fun at camp and the kids have a great time.