Can students innovate a community’s future?

“Here’s the elephant in the room. Though communities are rightfully encouraging youth toward higher degrees, they are, at the same time, encouraging an exodus of their most valuable intellectual resources.”
~Leah Haws, Founder/CEO MinDevices

Since moving to this 100,000ish community in 2001, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told my kids, “You have to get out of this town. You can come back when you have figured a way to support yourself.”

This is a city in love with big box ventures, where our city hub consists of Costco, Walmart and Red Lobster, where our stunning riverfront commercial tourism opportunities are ignored and a flailing downtown struggles to bring culture to the community. It’s a city where medical professionals, attorneys and government workers rule and high schoolers compete with adults for low-paying retail and coffee shop jobs. In short, this city is an innovative ghost town where gravity grounds big ideas.

Or so it appears.

While I’m adept at identifying the city’s challenges, I’m not so savvy at finding solutions which is why I get excited when I meet someone who sees promise amid a limping frame.

Know OpportunityLeah Haws came to this city by way of southern California and before that, Japan. She bootstrapped her way through an artistic career and eventually founded LGH Marketing where she has helped numerous non-profits and government agencies match strategies to today’s markets. Now a small city girl, Leah never ditched her metro-sized ideals which serves well her clients, as well as her own ventures.

She’s now set her sights on producing educational products that address the elephant she speaks of in the quote above. What if, she wonders, we could help our youth connect everyday skills with opportunity and encourage them to be the city’s future? What if we could plant global vision and encourage youth to think beyond borders while living within them?

These are some of the big ideas Leah incorporates in her new curriculum, Know Opportunity, scheduled for launch later this year. Colorful, inviting and more realistic than any business lesson I’ve ever seen, Know Opportunity whets student’s appetites to possibility while considering funding challenges, risk and real-life hiccups.

Haws recognizes the challenges city governments, educators and small businesses face. Each must answer to constituents, regulators and clients while trying to elicit positive change. Her small contribution to the conversation attempts to ignite future growth by addressing our future resources themselves. Get them thinking, she figures and let innovation begin to birth itself.

She’s particularly focused on introducing the curriculum to rural communities because, let’s face it, exposure to innovative thinking in those areas is limited. Kids in Palo Alto share desks with gazillionaires who have changed the economy–they are a tad bit closer to the source, though they, too, would benefit from the lessons.

Ironically, Haws’ project embodies the very concepts she espouses–a ground up enterprise wrought through hard work and determination. Nothing like real life context to spark a teen’s interest.

Hers is a refreshing mindset and, for me, a wagon on which I can jump aboard. More to come on this exciting project… For information on the curriculum, please contact Leah.