You never know who will come up with the next ‘big idea’ that could change the world.
This has happened more than once in Waterloo Region, already dubbed ‘The Creative Capital of Canada’ thanks to HIP Developments President Scott Higgins and demonstrated by the local creation of such world-changing technological achievements as the BlackBerry and IMAX.
“This kind of creativity is the wheelhouse of the Chamber of Commerce,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “We always look down the road a generation or two because they are not only our community’s future leaders but our job creators for the rest of the 21st century.”
In hopes of nurturing that next generation of innovative thinkers, the Cambridge Chamber has teamed up with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and the BEP (Business Education Partnership) of Waterloo Region in a new innovative program called the ‘Youth Creativity Fund’.
Through this program, students in grades 5 to 12 can apply for seed funding to create a solution to a problem that faces them, their family and friends, or the whole world.
They can apply for $500 - $1,000 to help solve this issue and are required to report back to organizers in three months to tell them what they have learned from the experience.
“The great thing about this program is that it doesn’t matter if ideas are successful or not, we are focused on learning and simply trying ideas out,” says April Albano, Program Manager- Youth Innovation, who is leading the program through the BEP Waterloo Region (WR). “We want to build up creative confidence in youth from a young age. If students are given the opportunity to try out their ideas, they will be more confident to try out ideas later in their life. We have learned through research that creativity is something that we get worse at as we grow older unless we practice it. We want to capture and nourish as much creativity as we can and help it grow in Waterloo Region.”
To help students bring their ideas to life, she says a toolkit (available at youthcreativityfund.ca) has been developed containing resources to get their creative juices flowing and generate creative thinking outside the box.
“We know youth have incredible ideas, but sometimes it takes some work to bring those ideas to life or even to mind,” she says, adding there is an opportunity to seek advice on specific aspects of their project. “For example, we have had some students ask for assistance with coding an app they are working on. Another group asked for help with grassroots marketing. The BEP WR prides itself on connecting the business world with education and we have an extensive network of local champions who want to help. If a student identifies a need, we will work with that student to find the appropriate support.”
BEP WR has given assets to local schools to promote the program and students are urged to listen for school announcements and check their school’s newsletter in the New Year.
“As we spread the word about this fund, we are aiming to be top of mind for every educator who has a student approach them with an idea to better their community,” says April. “We want these educators to say, ‘That’s a great idea, apply to the Youth Creativity Fund to make that idea a reality’.”
Also, students who may have multiple ideas are asked to submit one application at a time. However, she says they are allowed to apply again in the future if they want to further develop their initial idea.
“We want our kids to know that perseverance, dedication, commitment, passion, vision and yes, dreaming, are the key ingredients for creativity, innovation, and change,” says Greg, adding the Chamber is proud to be part of such a worthwhile initiative. “But we need everyone’s help. Both Chambers have foundation dollars that must flow to youth programs which has enabled us to help get this program off the ground. HIP Developments has pledged to match every single donation to a maximum of $100,000, so this just shows their commitment to our future leaders and innovators.”
April says this a great program to support youth, especially since many are entering the workforce when the world is facing numerous challenges.
“By investing in youth today we are helping to build up their creative confidence, so they feel empowered and ready to tackle the challenges of tomorrow,” she says.
Visit the Youth Creativity Fund to learn more.
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