Whatever It Takes (WIT), a local nonprofit with a mission to foster social entrepreneurship and leadership in teens, will host its annual WIT Showcase Event on Thursday, May 18 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the San Diego Central Library.
WIT is the only college credit social entrepreneur and leadership course in the country for high school teens. Upon completion of the nine-month course, teens earn six units of transferable college credit from UC San Diego. Teens accepted into WIT learn how to design and launch, manage and measure, a social enterprise or project. Over the years teens have launched enterprises that have made a local and national impact.
At the showcase, entrepreneurial teens from 15 local high schools across San Diego will present the impact of their businesses and how they scaled their business ideas.
“WIT was designed to teach teens the entrepreneurial mindset and spirit that is lacking in educational programs today,” said WIT Founder Sarah Hernholm. “Through WIT, teens learn how to be solution-oriented instead of problem-focused, helping them become leaders with the know-how to solve real community problems.”
Logan Schwarz, a freshman from Rancho Santa Fe at The Bishop’s School in his first year of WIT, created an enterprise called Prototype Coding. Prototype Coding seeks to bridge the gap between technology and those who don’t have access to it.
He spent most of the year building a coding curriculum to teach to students in Title 1 schools in San Diego, schools that have high numbers of low-income students. He hopes his curriculum will inspire students to explore computer programming, which can lead to great career opportunities in the world’s fastest growing industries of tech.
“My major problem was getting the computers,” Logan said.
At first, he started out building his own mini computers for the students to use. He could design and build the computers for about $50 a piece, but as he heard feedback from investors at the WIT Pitch night, the idea wasn’t practical because he would need around 10 laptops per class and he would have to come up with the money to build all the computers.
So he reached out to a government liquidation group to see if they could help donate old laptops but he was told that he wasn’t an existing, established organization so they could not help him.
“How am I supposed to exist if I can’t get the computers I need to exist?” wondered a frustrated Logan.
Logan was able to secure a potential investor who donated 10 laptops for his first class. He plans to test the beta curriculum, which teaches coding using a fun programming game, to Bishop’s sixth graders next week.
As Logan plans to continue on in WIT as a sophomore, he will spend his second year getting his curriculum into Title 1 schools, possibly in San Marcos or Barrio Logan.
“It’s been super fun,” Logan said. “Next year I want to expand and really see what I can do.”
He said as all of the students working on enterprises encounter some kind of road block, it’s been great having the WIT team there not to solve their business problems for them but to point them in the right direction.
As Hernholm has said, WIT gives students the space to fail — like any entrepreneur, they need to build resilience and grit, take a risk, fall and learn to get back up again. They can learn to see failure as feedback and keep moving forward.
The WIT Showcase Event is taking place in four cities throughout the U.S. — in addition to San Diego, showcases will be held in St. Louis, New York and Austin. The San Diego showcase expects to draw a crowd of over 350 attendees and has sold out every year. All proceeds through ticket sales and donations will go toward benefiting WIT’s mission and scholarship programs to empower, educate and inspire young entrepreneurs to build value and make a difference.