Wrapping up my second year in Jookender’s Social Entrepreneurship Program, I am excited to begin my third. 

Starting out in the fall, I was expecting a very similar experience to the pilot program. What I got was even more enriching. For starters, the scale of the first Kaveret was significantly smaller. As a team of five individuals, the number of projects we could realistically undertake was limited by our capacity. This year, that capacity grew exponentially. With four separate teams, size-dependent restraints no longer limited the impact we could make across our community. 

Despite this greater size, the program was structured so that each individual not only participated fully, but learned a variety of fundamental skills necessary for social entrepreneurship. Each team was assigned one of four modules (Writing, Research/Analytics, Fundraising and Marketing) and rotated through each of them every two months. Monthly meetings promoted collaboration across groups and modules, bringing each of the four elements together toward a common, overarching role.

Weekly contact with Sasha Grebnyuk, the director of the program, kept the leaders updated with upcoming projects and gave each team ample opportunity to ask questions (and learn) from her vast experience running a social nonprofit. Friendly competition between the groups, in the form of a point system, kept each team motivated to track their incredible progress throughout the year. Perhaps most notably, the 2019-2020 program took advantage of Jookender’s larger network of professionals in all areas of social entrepreneurship and brought its participants into close interaction with skilled experts in the areas of fundraising, management, writing, marketing and data analytics/research.

I thoroughly enjoyed this hybrid model of learning and application. Between planning fundraising events, leading online programming, spearheading a new blog and learning from our engagement in the inner workings of a social nonprofit, this year’s Social Entrepreneurship Program gave us, its participants, the freedom and inspiration to think critically about the impact we could have on our community. 

One of the group leaders, Kira Shandalov, expressed her excitement for this aspect of the program: “My group and I had a lot of fun this year. We learned about the many ways you can connect with your community and make an impact despite our youth.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world, this year’s Kaveret was able to apply the lessons they had learned from the fall to a real application of social entrepreneurship. After a monthly meeting, the groups decided to provide community enrichment through online classes. This is where the group structure of the program allowed for incredible reach. 

Each group designed, planned and marketed their classes to the greater community. Everything from introductory french and AP review tips to Passover parties were brought to the community through a new medium. Minor financial compensation was given to each group as an additional incentive for a successfully executed class, resulting in perhaps the most rewarding part of the program: the final donations.

Although each group was given the option of pocketing the money they had earned, not one chose to do so. Instead, in the spirit of tikkun olam, each group chose to donate their money to causes they felt strongly connected to. The bullets below sum up the donations by the organization:

  • Boston Children’s Hospital: $250
  • St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: $100
  • Equal Justice Initiative: $550

When asked about their choice regarding their donations, each group expressed an eagerness to assist in these troubling times. Daniel Sardak, a group leader and second-year member of the program, expressed his desire to help children suffering from cancer: “We chose to donate to St. Jude because we feel that no one should ever have to deal with something as horrible as cancer and decided to help fight against the disease.” Leader Kira Shandalov chose to donate to Boston Children’s Hospital because “a lot of funding went into finding COVID-19 and neglected the support of children suffering other medical issues.” The other two groups, mine included, chose to donate to the Equal Justice Initiative to address the backward racial discrimination that has affected the criminal justice system far too long.

These donations were the culmination of a year of learning and application. This Kaveret was able to engage firsthand in the world of social entrepreneurship: brainstorming, planning and organizing classes that raised funds for those causes we felt could change lives. With next year’s program expanding even greater in scope, I cannot wait to see what impact we can have not only in our community, but on the broader world as a whole.

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