To say that the past year has been challenging — particularly for frontline workers and educators — is a drastic understatement. But while the COVID-19 pandemic has brought difficulty to every square inch of our country and into all of our lives, it has also galvanized some truly inspirational, innovative and collaborative work like never before.
I am fortunate enough to see this inspirational work every day with our T-Mobile employees who have continued to make big bold moves, including the integration of two companies after the largest telecom merger in history, all while many of them are also homeschooling their children, taking care of loved ones and juggling all of the unexpected complexity that this pandemic has brought. I am so impressed by their perseverance. And outside our company walls, everyday heroes have stepped up time and again to propel us all forward, and to helped us see the good that is still so prevalent in the world.
In the same spirit, the T-Mobile Foundation and Ashoka pushed forward and launched the third Changemaker Challenge this year on February 11. We started this unique program in 2018 to tap into the limitless creativity and ingenuity of young people all around the United States. Hundreds of teams have since shared their trailblazing ideas with us and, with a little financial support and mentorship, grew their ventures to drive societal change. I am passionate about a lot of great things we do at T-Mobile, but this is one that truly excites and inspires me.
If you asked me what I expect to see with this year’s Changemaker Challenge entries, of course I would say that we will see creative ideas that come from the experiences of the pandemic. But these young people will go further and will think about the future, not just the past. Adults often set self-imposed limits on their ideas and endeavors, but kids don’t see the same boundaries. They don’t look for all of the reasons that something won’t work. When presented with a glitch, these kids don’t stop until they figure it out. They simply aren’t afraid of failing. I wish I could bottle up that positive energy and start my day with it every morning!
What we experienced in 2020 wasn’t limited to the pandemic. We also experienced a racial injustice uprising, political unrest and a historic presidential election. These kids are also extremely passionate about protecting our climate and looking for ways to use technology to solve problems. Educators like you hear young people’s worries about and reactions to these big-picture issues.
This generation feels a strong sense of responsibility for what happens to our Earth and to our people. They won’t sit idle … they want to make change and will do just that. I am sure these free-thinking activists inspire you, just as they do me. We could all stand to hear from a few more Greta Thunbergs and Amanda Gormans these days, don’t you think?
There is still time to encourage your students to apply for the 2021 Changemaker Challenge! We want to see the projects your students are dreaming about or may already have in motion. Make sure they complete an application before the April 8 deadline.
I also hope you will join me this May when we announce our finalists and showcase the amazing innovations they come up with this fall. Maybe we can all be inspired by the way kids think: eyes wide open, looking to the sky, DREAMING BIG, and going for it!