3 Alumni Startups and Nonprofits You Should Know About

On campus, there are several groups that are synonymous with social entrepreneurship and civic engagement; I’ll let you think of some! But what about off campus? There is a diverse community of alumni working in global engagement that you might not have heard of. We’re here to inform you of just several of the amazing projects alumni are working on in the fields of social entrepreneurship, social justice, civic engagement, community partnerships, and beyond.

1. Drive Change, Jordyn Lexton ’08

With Lexton ’08 at the helm, Drive Change is a socially-innovative food truck business that specifically aims to keep young people out of juvenile detention centers. In their own words:

“Drive Change is a start-up NYC foodtruck business that hires, trains, and empowers formerly incarcerated youth (ages 16-25). We intend to be out on the NYC streets by the summer of 2013!

Drive Change aims to provide young people with the re-entry support that they need to generate a vibrant and opportunity filled life. The Drive Change re-entry embraces a three-pronged approach to successful transition for youth re-entering their communities:

1. Drive Change incorporates an alternative education program that embraces life-skills and transferable skill learning resulting in concrete credentials and licenses.
2. Drive Change provides paid-transitional quality employment that will put real dollars in the hands of people in need of an immediate income
3. Drive Change aims to generate self-esteem/self-worth through leadership development, community organizing and advocacy

The program is eight-months long and consists of three distinct phases. The three phase structure allows Drive Change to run three times a year. Each incoming cohort of participants consists of 8-10 youth. Thus, Drive Change can enroll 30 young people per year, per truck.

Drive Change is not just a formula for lowering recidivism, it is a formula for producing the future life that all young people deserve to strive for.”

2. Summer of Solutions Hartford, Jennifer Roach ’14

With the tagline “Food Justice, Urban Agriculture, Leadership Development, with a hint of love and joyfulness!” it’s hard not to be intrigued by Roach ’14’s project, Summer of Solutions Hartford. Combining urban gardening, education, and social justice, Summer of Solutions, or, SoS, “implemented a community garden in the Zion Street community of Hartford CT. Networking with local non-profit organizations, fundraising via potlucks and ask letters, and connecting with the neighbors, gave the solutionaries the ability to put in over 50 raised beds, each of which are gardened by members of the community.”

One thing we often love to see at Wesleyan is a drive to start local projects. Roach’s dedication to the Hartford community is a great example of that. By educating local students about farming and helping them to develop leadership skills, SoS will surely become a strong asset to our greater CT community.

3. Maji Safi Group, Max Perel-Slater ’11

Education and disease prevention go hand in hand. Perel-Slater ’11 promotes this method of health innovation in Shirati, Tanzania, a group of rural villages on the shores of Lake Victoria, and recently won an Advancing Leaders Fellowship to supplement his work. With a community-based approach, the group also focuses on women’s empowerment and its effects for the greater good. From their website: “The Maji Safi Group’s innovative strategy is to actively promote disease prevention by focusing on sustainable education and by providing health information and literature to people in their native language. This approach provides trained locals with the tools and access to teach their communities about the importance of hygiene and sanitation.

The Maji Safi Group believes that women’s empowerment is the way forward in the development of Africa. We therefore work to alleviate disease by empowering women as Community Water Workers (CWWs). In Tanzania, most of the hygienic tasks (i.e. cooking, fetching water, etc.) are the responsibility of women, thus making it culturally appropriate for them to be the stakeholders in sanitation and hygiene. Additionally, money earned by women is much more likely to be invested back into the household which further improves the quality of life in Shirati.”