04 Dec 2019 Focused on At-Risk Youth Through STEM
By Dr. Jesse Bryson, Founder and President of the I Will Mentorship Foundation
Note: This is part of a series of columns written by members of the Second Muse cohort working in partnership with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation in Collaboratory. SecondMuse is a company that helps support and nurture “homegrown” entrepreneurs. These are people from our community that are working hard to establish or grow businesses here in our neighborhoods. They have identified needs in our marketplace and are standing up companies to meet them, while strengthening our community. SecondMuse and the Foundation believe that people are the core of our economy and that is an important step in Southwest Florida philanthropy, to help people establish businesses here, to create jobs here and keep the talent and enterprise here.
From teacher to student, student to community, generation to generation, I Will mentorship Foundation (IWMF) helps prepare youth to not only participate in, but also shape the future – their future and the future of their community. As a native of Fort Myers, I came back to give back. I grew up in the Dunbar community and was once one of the youths who I Will Mentorship is targeting to empower. The Foundation’s mission is driven by my passion and desire to change the trajectory of youth not only of this community, but others as well.
Unlike many youths who are led to believe that college is the only pathway to success, I do not recall being given the opportunity at an early age or as a high school student to access the resources that would have prepared me for either vocational or collegiate education. Without such direction, I enlisted in the military and spent 20 years serving my country where I was exposed to opportunities, travel, education, discipline and experiences that helped me grow and excel as a person.
Among many of our programs, IWMF teaches soft skills and emphasizes E-STEM (environment, science, technology, engineering and math) to all of the students. Our programming provides access to hands on 21st Century technology, college prep curriculum and environmental education to under-resourced communities and schools. Our programs are designed to improve E-STEM proficiency, coupled with a robust support system for teachers and virtual reality lab that brings material to life, thus helping create the kind of transformations that change lives.
Over the past 4 years IWMF has served over 2,000 youth, which has created new challenges like many nonprofits experience. As demand for services expanded beyond the ability of a volunteer-based organization, we struggled to effectively manage, support, and scale our program to be most effective. The opportunity to join the Second Muse Cohort came at a leap-of-faith moment in which we made a critical decision to transition from all-volunteers, to bring on salaried staff. We experienced many growing pains in our delivery of services and other pitfalls in the process but were able to gain the help of the Second Muse cohort tabletop mentors and guest speakers.
The sessions were demanding and helped us develop a strategic plan for staffing infrastructure, marketing and sustainable growth. As a result, we hired key staff in positions that are essential to develop a solid foundation for financial sustainment and dynamic programing to meet the needs of 5–12 grade youth. Starting in the fall of 2020 we will expand to Collier and Charlotte counties, targeting rural and immigrant communities which have limited resources, providing hope to youth who are capable of more than the community is able to provide. Under this new structure, we believe that an additional 83 youth will be accepted into college with at least 60 percent of college paid for; and an additional 51 youth will enter vocational schools, and over 800 youth will be exposed to E-STEM programming or 21st Century skill training for the first time.
For more information on how to get involved, please visit: www.iwmf2.org.
About SecondMuse and its Partnership with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
SecondMuse is an international company that collaborates with visionary governments, corporations, foundations and startups to build 21st-century economies. At the core of our economies are people, communities and networks. From Brooklyn to Bali, our programs span geographies, sectors and size of business. We tackle essential challenges in manufacturing, energy, capital, education, mental health, data, civic engagement, food, blockchain, disaster risk and more around the world. Located in Collaboratory and in partnership with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, SecondMuse launched in February 2019 and is currently working with its first cohort of local entrepreneurs.