We are so happy to have been given the opportunity to partner with the Uncommon Individual Foundation (UIF) in bringing Caruso Challenge to our 9th grade RISE class.
UIF was founded by Dr. Richard Caruso. Dr. Caruso grew up with little money and not much hope for a bright future. Fortunately, a high school coach saw potential in his athletic ability and supported him along his path of obtaining a football scholarship at Susquehanna University. Through this relationship with his mentor, Dr. Caruso began to believe in himself and through the help of other mentors along the way he achieved great success. As a means of giving back, Dr. Caruso started the Uncommon Individual Foundation, a foundation designed to teach others about the power of mentoring.
The Caruso Challenge was designed by Ben Pietrzyk while he was enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate Program. He named this program in honor of Dr. Caruso and his passion for empowering youth. It was Ben’s idea to come up with a problem-based entrepreneurial course which required students to design and launch live micro-businesses within their own community.
This course teaches students that entrepreneurial skills are based on problem solving and that an entrepreneurial mindset is important for any career they may choose to pursue. Through Caruso Challenge students learn to develop critical thinking skills and use problem-solving tools to work toward solving a problem they are passionate about within their own community.
Once the students chose a problem, they will work with the UIF mentors and volunteer industry experts to better identify the problem, test their assumptions about it with various stakeholders and use the data they have acquired to formulate creative solutions. This course was originally designed for students between the ages of 16-20. In talking with Ben, we realized that this curriculum fit in perfectly with our 9th grade programming, so we decided to incorporate it into our curriculum.
Our 9th grade RISE participants welcomed the opportunity to work together on some of the challenges that they witnessed within their community. The RISE team has already been able to identify several problems within the community such as food deserts, the loss of child innocence and lack of income concerns. They appreciate the fact that their voices are being heard and that their ideas for creating change are being taken seriously. They are beginning to work together toward solutions and are learning a great deal from Ben and his team.
Caruso Challenge is a 15-week program, which began the end of October and will run through mid-February. The Challenge is just one of the many programs UIF offers to empower youth and promote positive change within a community. We are so grateful to partner with such an amazing organization.