Education with Impact Changes Everything
By Kristi Mitchell
Several years ago, I offered to teach a class on How to Start a Small Business. My students were women rescued from sex trafficking or recovering from drug addiction. Not my typical students that I teach as an instructor of entrepreneurship at Butler University. These students were overcoming years of trauma and obstacles, trying to create a new path forward. I didn’t know what to expect. Would they even be interested in what I was teaching?
The class started slow, most of them had massive self-doubt, but toward the end I was awestruck by the change. The entrepreneurial mindset started to resonate, they found themselves thinking maybe this was for them. They had tools, knowledge and hope for a new path, maybe a business of their own, something they could care about and grow. There’s power in that—power to transform years of control and abuse to one of hope and empowerment. They inspired me.
But for me, the easy part was the class. They have got all the fundamentals. They were wonderful, eager students. The challenge became moving from business concept to business launching. These women, overcoming immense challenges, had little access to resources or business support.
This is where being an instructor at Butler came into play. What if I could recruit students, gifted with an amazing college business education, to help these marginalized women on their journey? Nervously, I tossed the idea to one of my Butler classes and had a dozen students sign up. Could the college students handle this emotionally and academically? I was apprehensive but embraced the challenge and lit a spark. That spark has now roared to an entirely new education model with immense transformative power for both the college student and the community.
Today, college students working in the Launch Hope model have an entirely different educational experience. Social Impact Experiential Education holds the potential to revolutionize the way we educate and shape future generations. These young college students, already generationally inclined to embrace social issues with a desire to make a difference, can lean into that energy, that spark.
Our Launch Hope college students take skills they learn in their college courses and pour them into Launch Hope and our marginalized communities. They teach our members business skills and roll up their sleeves to launch and grow their businesses. What better way to master a knowledge or skill set, than to learn it, apply it in real life, and teach it to someone else?
They know what they are doing is changing someone’s life, and potentially changing their family for generations to come. That’s what keeps these students returning to Launch Hope semester after semester. The students work alongside previously incarcerated, previously addicted, trafficking and abuse survivors, immigrants, disabled, and financially challenged. No matter their race, ethnicity, or anything with their backgrounds, the college students embrace them, they want to make a difference. I know this type of education is changing them intellectually and emotionally. When one of our members shares their story with the students and I see them tearing up or saying they have goosebumps, I know they have changed, they are a different kind of future leader. One that is empathetic, responsible, socially conscious citizens, confident, and driven to make a difference in the world. They all make me proud!
Kristi Mitchell is Launch Hope Foundation's founder and is an entrepreneurship & innovation instructor at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Aligning Opportunities Between Students, Community, and Industry
Don Wood Foundation
P.O. Box 25537
10315 Dupont Circle Drive West
Fort Wayne, IN 46825
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