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Home » Business » Teen Entrepreneurs Find Pandemic Silver Lining: Covid NineTEEN Project

Teen Entrepreneurs Find Pandemic Silver Lining: Covid NineTEEN Project

The future is BRIGHT, my friends! Meet two teen entrepreneurs who found a silver lining in the pandemic madness by creating a project to help hundreds of elementary students around the globe.

Sarah Shapiro and Skye Loventhal started the Covid NineTEEN Project, which provides FREE teen-led activities and one-on-one tutoring meant to support elementary school students.

The Covid NineTEEN Project is a group of motivated teens who are using this valuable time to make a difference in the world.

They hope to serve as mentors for elementary school children to help them fill their time and continue to flourish despite the uncertainty of the outside world.

Covid NineTEEN Project: covidnineteenproject.com

Instagram: @covidnineteenproject

Covid NineTEEN Project logo

 

Covid NineTEEN Project Mission

The current COVID-19 pandemic is keeping children at home, leading them to no longer have their usual time spent in school, sports, art classes, etc.

The Covid NineTEEN project provides FREE teen-led activities and one-on-one tutoring meant to support elementary school students. Our teen mentors help keep children motivated and take the stress off of parents.

We are a group of motivated teens who are using this valuable time to make a difference in the world.

We hope to serve as mentors for elementary school children to help them fill their time and continue to flourish despite the uncertainty of the outside world.

(Source: covidnineteenproject.com)

Teen Entrepreneurs, Sarah Shapiro and Skye Loventhal, COVID NineTEEN Project

 

Meet Teen Entrepreneurs and Co-Founders Skye Loventhal and Sarah Shapiro

Skye Loventhal, Co-Founder, Covid NineTEEN Project

Skye is one of the co-founders of the Covid NineTEEN Project. She’s currently a high school junior who is part of the AP Capstone Program.

She’s also the founding Vice President of her school’s Girl Up chapter, a softball coach for an eight and under team, and a kindergarten teacher assistant.

Her background in her school’s Academic mentor Program as a math tutor for underclassmen also prepared her for Covid NineTEEN Project.

She’s passionate about advocacy and so glad to be able to make a difference during this time!

Sarah Shapiro, Co-Founder, Covid NineTEEN Project

Sarah is an 11th-grade student in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Granada Hills Charter High School.

She’s the co-founder of the Covid NineTEEN Project and an avid advocate for change in her community.

As a nationally ranked Speech and Debate competitor, in addition to being the founding president of her school’s Girl Up chapter, she aims to enact positive social change worldwide by using her voice to bring pertinent issues to the attention of the public.

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About Host Jen McFarland

Jen McFarland, MPA; Founder, Women Conquer Business

Jen McFarland, MPA, has over 25 years of training, teaching, and executive experience. She led large-scale public sector projects affecting over 50,000 businesses, handling millions of dollars.

Today, Jen consults with business owners on leadership, strategic project planning, and digital marketing. She’s a frequent guest speaker and trainer.

If growing your business feels like rocket science, let’s fix that with these free business resources.

Teen Entrepreneurs Find a Pandemic Silver Lining with COVID NineTEEN Project

 

Transcript: Teen Entrepreneurs Find Pandemic Silver Lining

Jen:

This week on Women Conquer Business we have an extra special show for you. We meet two teenage entrepreneurs who are taking the world by storm literally by helping elementary students learn all the things that they need to know. You’re going to be amazed. The future is looking so bright my friends, so bright. All that and more here on Women Conquer Business.

Jen:

Hi, my name is Jen McFarland. I’m the founder of Women conquer Business. I have over 25 years of training, teaching, and executive experience in leadership, strategic project planning, and digital marketing. Each week on the Women Conquer Business podcast we teach you how to help you and your business thrive. Are you ready? Let’s go forth and conquer.

Jen:

Welcome back to the show. We’ve spent a lot of time on this podcast helping existing businesses pivot into the new normal.

That means everything happened with COVID-19 and it shook up a lot of businesses. One aspect that we haven’t talked about really at all, and certainly not enough, are the opportunities that have sprung up as a result of COVID-19.

What are some of the new businesses and projects that are meeting current needs?

I was so delighted when two teenage young women reached out to me and wanted to talk on this show about their project. It’s called the Covid NineTEEN Project.

Jen:

Let me just share with you the mission of the Covid NineTEEN Project. The founders, Skye and Sarah, are going to tell you a little bit about themselves at the beginning of the show, so I will let them tell their own story.

But I do want to share with you the mission of this organization, as it will help to set the context for how amazing this project really is and how hard these young women and their board and their young teachers have worked to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.

Jen:

Here’s the mission, the current COVID-19 pandemic is keeping children at home, leading them to no longer have their usual time spent in school, sports, art classes, et cetera.

The Covid NineTEEN Project provides free teen-led activities and one-on-one tutoring meant to support elementary school students. Our teen mentors help keep children motivated and take the stress off of parents.

We are a group of motivated teens who are using this valuable time to make a difference in the world.

We hope to serve as mentors for elementary school children to help them fill their time and continue to flourish despite the uncertainty of the outside world.

Jen:

I tell you, the future is bright, and it’s being led by these two young women. Please welcome Skye and Sarah to the Women Conquer Business podcast. Skye and Sarah, welcome to Women Conquer Business. Thanks for being here.

Sarah:

Thank you so much for having us.

Skye:

Thanks for having us.

Sarah:

Yeah, this is an amazing opportunity.

Jen:

It’s so cool. Thank you so much for reaching out and finding me.

Why don’t you share with everybody a little bit about yourselves?

Sarah:

Hi, my name is Sarah Shapiro. I’m 17 years old, and I’m an incoming senior in high school. I live in Los Angeles, California. I’ve absolutely loved social entrepreneurship and just in general trying to make a difference since a really young age. I’ve always inspired to do something like this, so I’m so excited to be talking to you about this today because social entrepreneurship and feminism are two of my biggest passions. So Women Conquer Business, that’s pretty cool.

Jen:

Awesome. Thank you.

Hey Skye, what do you have?

Skye:

Hi. I’m Skye, and I am also 17, also going to be a senior in high school in Los Angeles. Sarah and I both have a lot of background in advocacy and women empowerment. We actually are the founding president and vice president of our school’s Girl Up chapter, which is a UN organization, so we are very excited to be doing this today.

Jen:

Oh wow. Cool. Tell me about this UN project. This is pretty neat.

Do you get to meet young women from all over the world?

Sarah:

Yeah, that’s just one of our side projects. I told Skye, I was like, “I want to be president of a female empowerment club at school.” And Skye was like, “I’m down. I’ll be your VP. Let’s figure out how we’re going to do this.”

And so Girl Up is actually an international organization, and they’re working towards combating gender inequalities worldwide. And so we do a lot of projects towards working towards female empowerment, both in our community and beyond.

We host different classes at school about how women can get more involved in business, in STEM, about how we can work towards raising the literacy rates, things like that, yeah.

Jen:

That’s really awesome. What kind of projects have you worked on just in your local community?

Sarah:

Skye, if you want to talk a little bit about the workshops we have, I think that’s pretty cool what we do with Girl Up.

Skye:

Oh, so some of the things that we do with Girl Up, we were working on an advocacy challenge where we were focusing a lot on the idea of the pink tax, we were starting petitions, some people were doing art-related projects just to spread awareness, things like that.

And obviously this year got cut short because of everything that’s happened, but we were planning on doing some other big challenges that were about advocating for different issues that just exist in society.

Jen:

That’s fantastic. Do you want to maybe lead us into what happened this Spring that led you to then see this need that you’re filling with your project?

Sarah:

Yeah, I think that a lot of the experiences that Skye and I had with starting a chapter of an international organization, I’m on the speech team and debate team at my school, so I’ve traveled all around the country making my voice heard about pertinent issues.

One being that I’m specifically passionate about combating educational inequalities. And Skye, she coaches an eight and under softball team, she works in the kindergarten classroom, so we both have a lot of passions about education.

Since we’re both daughters of educators, we saw firsthand how students were really struggling to adapt to distance learning because they no longer had the one-on-one support that they needed and all of their extracurriculars and summer plans were canceled.

So kids no longer had that outlet to pursue those other talents that they have, those other curiosities.

Sarah:

So what we decided to do was create something called the Covid NineTEEN Project, and it’s a teen run initiative where we have daily activities and also one-on-one tutoring for kids.

We have one-on-one tutoring in 14 different languages, that’s offered daily. And then we also offer daily activities from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

I’m sorry. Yeah, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time. Sorry about that. We keep changing up our schedules to offer more. But yeah, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

And we offer arts, athletics, and academics, so everything under the sun. 200 plus activities per week, over 152 teen mentors, and then we have over 500 students right now.

Jen:

What? That’s so much. How did you get all of this done? This is amazing?

Sarah:

Skye, if you want to say how it started.

Skye:

Sarah reached out to me around mid-April, just saying that she wanted to start something and she didn’t really know what it was going to be, but that I was going to start it with her.

And I was like, “Okay.” So we kind of just started reaching out to some people we know from school who put together the people that are now our board and just bouncing ideas back and forth.

And then this kind of ended up being the idea that we were all really passionate about, so we just went with it and started reaching out to other teens that we knew that we thought would want to volunteer, reaching out to people who could share our program and find students that would be interested in joining.

And it just kind of blew up from there.

Sarah:

Yeah, and what’s sort of crazy is how many divisions we have within our board. There’s Skye and me, plus we have 16 or 17 board members. And then we over 150 teen mentors. We’re actually expanding.

We’re opening up our applications again because there have been so many hundreds and hundreds of teens wanting to get involved that we go through an extensive orientation and application and training process.

They have to fill out all these different essays talking about why they’re so passionate about it. We do interviews, training, and then ultimately they do activity proposals and then create their activities for the kids. But it’s all these students who are at the top of their classes, involved in all these different extracurriculars, and wonderful mentors for these students.

These teen mentors, what’s really awesome is that oftentimes kids when they look at their teachers, they’re more of an authority figure. It can be more daunting for them, and they can look to them for example, but they’re not sure if they can emulate them.

Sarah:

Then they look at peers their own age, and they can relate to one another, they’re in the same boat. But teens, they’re that perfect in-between.

They can look up to them and emulate them, they’re an example in their lives that they can work towards striving to become. But at the same time, they’re not too scary for them to talk to, they know a lot of the current trends and stuff like that, so they can talk to them like they’re peers, but just with more guidance.

Being able to give our wisdom in that sense to these kids, inspiring them. So many feel disconnected during this time, and isolated. They’re at their home, and the only interaction they have with other people are their family and then sometimes on Zoom. But now they’re making friends from all over the world.

Sarah:

We have students in seven different countries right now, practically every state. It’s crazy. I just hosted an activity with kids from Alaska, North Carolina, Virginia. There were students from Colombia and Argentina in my lesson. It’s crazy.

Jen:

How is everybody finding out about this?

Let’s just start there, and then I want to know how many kids you’re helping.

Skye:

We have an outreach division within our board, and they reach out to a lot of news sites and parenting blogs and stuff like that, so we’ve had a lot of information go out in Facebook groups, especially with educators.

That’s how it got especially to Argentina. There was a teacher in Argentina that saw a post about us on Facebook, and we actually hosted a lesson with 80 of her students, so that was really cool.

And then also, we did an interview with CBS, and that’s gone around a little bit. So people are just finding out about it from all different news outlets and media sources now.

Jen:

Oh, that’s fantastic. How many people are you helping right now?

Sarah:

Right now we have over 500 students, but we’re aiming to expand because we can accommodate a lot more with all of our programming. We have over 200 activities per week, plus one-on-one tutoring. And we have so many mentors that want to get involved that we’re just adding more volunteers as the demand continues to increase, but we really want to expand all throughout the globe.

Even if there wasn’t a pandemic happening…

We created this as a crisis relief project, but even if there wasn’t a pandemic going on, we’re offering a free athletic, academic, and artistic summer camp for these kids completely for free, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

Sarah:

And so many kids wouldn’t be able to afford that otherwise, so the fact that even…

Especially since we’re amidst a pandemic, this is something that so many families can benefit from so we just feel so incredibly grateful for the silver lining of this pandemic.

Obviously, in an ideal world, we would be having a great summer, we would hopefully have our senior year in person. It doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen.

But the silver lining is that we’re making a difference in the lives of so many kids.

Jen:

I think that this is wonderful in part because of exactly what you were saying, that peer-to-peer learning. It’s so amazing to have teenagers wanting to be role models to elementary students because not all teenagers…

Sometimes they think they’re too cool for that, even though you guys have a really important to play in showing people how much leadership you have as a team, so you’re showing off to the adults, and then at the same time all of these kids, they’re going to remember this for a lifetime.

It’s not just you who’s going to remember this. This is the kids. You’re changing lives.

Sarah:

It’s crazy to us to see that.

We actually got a testimonial from a parent. This testimonial, when I read it, I started crying because I was like, “This is why we work sometimes 18 hours per day. This is why we’ve spent all of these months planning and working. This is why it all pays off.”

The parent said… One of the many classes I host is journalism, and the parent said, “My kid didn’t know what journalism was until the class today. Yesterday she said she wanted to be a superstar. After today, she said she wants to be a journalist. She’s already been writing dozens and dozens of articles. Now this is what she’s so passionate about, and I just want to thank you for that, Sarah.”

And I was like, “That is why we do this.” Do you know what I mean?

Jen:

Yeah.

Sarah:

Those testimonials.

We get sent in so many pictures from parents of their kids holding the artwork they’re creating, all these speeches that they’re writing, doing even math homework, doing exercises.

We see these kids who are now so motivated in a time where you feel like there’s such a lack of motivation, they wouldn’t want to reach their fullest potential, but these teen mentors are keeping them on top of this and it’s just a beautiful thing.

Jen:

Yeah. It’s wonderful. You aren’t even going to know how positively you’ve impacted these children. They’re going to remember this for the rest of their lives and so will you.

What are you learning from this, both of you?

Skye:

I feel like we’ve learned so much, especially with communication, because we’re used to communicating with our friends, and I work in a kindergarten classroom so I’m used to communicating with younger kids.

But I think the whole dynamic of everything being online has changed a lot of the ways that we’ve communicated. And now we’re also communicating with parents all the time, we’re communicating with people like you that are sharing our project.

And it’s just changed so much of the dynamic of the way we’re able to communicate and also the way we’re willing to communicate.

Jen:

I think that that’s really great.

Sarah, do you have something to add?

Sarah:

Yeah. It’s gotten to the point where we’ve had to learn a lot about multitasking. As we’re speaking, I’m just seeing my inbox blowing up, and I’m just like, “Cancel, cancel, close.”

We get hundreds and hundreds of emails per day from parents saying about how much they love what we’re doing, asking about questions.

We literally have parents now saying, “My kids go to your classes every single day from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Can you host a birthday party for them?” We’ve literally had requests like that because they’re like, “They love this.”

And the activities that they’re doing, it’s just making such a difference for them.

And what I’ve learned is that… I don’t want to go into education in terms of being a teacher or something like that.

My goal in life is to go into politics and hopefully be able to work towards education reform.

Sarah:

And working with organizations like what we do, towards making sure we can make a difference in the lives of kids, that’s something that’s super important to me.

And I know Skye wants to go into business, and so we both have a love for social entrepreneurship.

I’ve been watching Shark Tank ever since I was in second grade, my favorite show. We actually host together a little entrepreneurs Shark Tank class, so we’re teaching them about how to make businesses at a young age, which is so much fun.

Jen:

That’s awesome.

Sarah:

What I’ve really learned is that we can make these engaging lesson plans and make a difference in the lives of these kids even as teens, and the skills that we’re learning, like communicating with the parents, we sent thousands and thousands of emails per day because of how many parent emails we have with Zoom information, with the supplies that they need, the reminder emails.

But we’re also talking to people from all over the world who want to get their school involved. We learn so much about professionalism, how to handle ourselves in those atmospheres, even though we’re only 17 years old.

These are life long skills that we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives. I don’t know, since you have Women Conquer Business, I bet business is probably what you want to hear about a lot, but we have twice a week, an intro to business class for kids.

Sarah:

We have some economics classes, things like that, and we have our Shark Tank little entrepreneurs class. And so these little kids were like, “I want to create something like the Covid NineTEEN Project.”

And we were just telling them, “You can make a difference in your lives.”

The first organization I ever created was at age eight, and I ended up selling baked goods, cakes and cupcakes, raising 13 to $14,000 for charity. Skye was with me every step of the way, and that was my first step into the realm of entrepreneurship.

And now to be working with my best friend, making a difference in the lives of hundreds of students, I’m sorry, I’m just spilling out with joy and laughter.

Jen:

No, it’s great.

Sarah:

I’m overflowing.

Jen:

What are you teaching the adults, you think? What are they learning from you?

Skye:

Like the parents?

Jen:

The parents, the teachers. You’re talking to a lot of us old folk.

What do you think we’re learning from you?

Skye:

I think it kind of sets a different expectation for people our age, that we’re not just sitting here on our phones 24/7.

Actually, we are on our phones 24/7, but we’re answering emails and messages about this project now. And I think it just shows that we have so much to offer this world and so much we’re willing to offer this world.

I feel like I found a completely different community online. I’m now following hundreds of accounts that are teen-led initiatives that are in education, in magazines. Just so many organizations that have been started by teens during this time that I never would have known existed without this whole platform.

Sarah:

Yeah, and I also think it’s showing adults a lot about how they can’t really underestimate kids.

I remember when Skye and I first started this, our parents were like, “You seem like you’re biting off far more than you can chew. We know you guys love doing stuff like this, but hosting daily classes that often, how are you going to do that? How are you going to get enough people involved? How are you going to create even the infrastructure for that?”

We have committees from outreach to social media, volunteer recruitment, volunteer management, tutoring, activities, completely separate.

Sarah:

It’s a headache, but we love it. And honestly, sometimes we’ll work up to 18 hours in a single day, and our parents are like, “What? What’s going on? What’s running through your brain?”

But I feel like when you love what you’re doing the time just goes by so fast. And people are like, “How do you make time in the day for that?”

But you make time for the things that you love. I think a lot of adults see they’re kind of unhappy with what they’re doing right now, and sometimes they feel like it’s too late for them to even make a difference in their community, so this sets an example for kids, teens, and adults that it’s never too early and it’s never too late to create something to make an everlasting impact and enact positive social change.

Jen:

Yeah adults, take that. No, I think that that’s terrific.

Sarah:

That’s so funny.

Jen:

I couldn’t agree more. I was asking… I think I may have just found them. I’ve been asking people for a teenage mentor.

I feel like there’s a lot I can learn from teenagers, and everybody’s like, “Are you crazy?” All the people my age were like, “Are you crazy? Here, you can spend time with my kids.” And I’m like, “Okay.” They’re like, “Are you serious?”

And I’m like, “Yes. How am I going to stay young? How am I going to understand what’s going on if I don’t talk to you as people and find out what you’re thinking?”

Sarah:

Yeah.

Jen:

And I don’t have kids either, so I think that that’s part of it too. But I just see so much out there that you guys are doing that’s so phenomenal, so I’m glad.

I’m glad that they’re seeing you for everything that you’re bringing and all of the help and all of the value, and I appreciate you.

Skye:

Thank you.

Jen:

Before we move on, I didn’t want to leave that unsaid, that I appreciate you and everything that you’re doing.

This is a business podcast, and I am fascinated by all of the things that you’re doing, so can I ask you what tools you are using to manage your business?

Sarah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Skye, you want to talk about digital platforms?

Skye:

Yeah. We do a lot of our communication with volunteers through Instagram group chats because we’ve just found they respond a lot faster that way and it’s just easier to have them.

We have them in little cohorts based on when they became a volunteer for our program, and now there are times we sent group chats and we’ll send important updates, but we’ll also send each other TikToks. And it’s so fun because there’s that balance dynamic between work and just for fun, and it’s become such a community.

And then in terms of communicating with parents, we’ve been using Gmail. We have all of our documents that all of our volunteers use to schedule things through Google Drive. What am I missing, Sarah?

Sarah:

Yeah. Essentially, we have a giant Google Drive that’s for the board, and then we have 50 different subfolders in there, and one of those if the volunteer folder. And from there, that’s where they can submit their activities proposals, their scheduling, all that. Google Sheets has saved our lives. I am telling you, Google Sheets, it’s how we deal with all of our parents.

Signups from Google Forms go into a Google Sheet, and we have done so much trial and error we figured out how to deal with hundreds and hundreds of signups on there to make sure they’re getting all the emails that they need and sorting that. It took a while to figure out, but we got it now.

We used to do it manually, but now we have a way to sort it with Google Sheets. In addition to that, all of our classes are hosted over Zoom.

Sarah:

Something super cool is that we have the breakout room feature on there, and we can also… In tutoring, there’s the whiteboard, or even when we’re doing Google Slides, when we have an arts class, or for example, journalism, I can annotate on the slides and show them what I’m talking about.

Zoom has been super, super helpful for us. That’s where we have our meetings with volunteers, meetings with the board, meetings with different subsections of volunteers, and everything that we host for our students. We also have a mailing list.

I think we use the Mailchimp or something like that, and we send out those at least once a week, but we normally do two to three times per week. That’s just our newsletter and stuff like that.

But in addition to that, we reached the maximum amount of emails that you could send on Gmail, which we didn’t know existed.

Jen:

Yeah, I was wondering about that.

Sarah:

Yeah, so we reached that maximum, so we had to start now on the G Suite. Now we have the basic G Suite, but we reached the maximum for that too, so we keep upgrading the G Suite thing.

Jen:

How are you funding the project?

Sarah:

Zoom, we’ve been doing entirely for free because anything that’s based in education, they’re offering all the features for free.

Jen:

Nice, cool.

Sarah:

So that part’s handled. In terms of funding, there’s not much funding that goes into it. We paid like seven dollars for a domain name for our website, but that wasn’t really anything.

Jen:

Yeah.

Sarah:

In terms of G Suite, we’ve been basically crowdfunding with our board members to pay for that in the meantime, but actually people started asking, “Hey, can you host a birthday party for my kids over Zoom from the Covid NineTEEN Project so we can spread the word? I’ll give you a donation to help pay for your Gmail and stuff like that.” And we’re like, “That’s pretty cool that you want to help out and help us afford paying for emails. That’s really nice of you.”

That’s the first donation we’ve ever gotten, and it’s happening soon actually.

But we chose for a reason to not become a 501(c)(3). We chose to not become that because you have to be 18 years old or older to be the founders or the working executive director of it.

Jen:

Sure.

Sarah:

We wouldn’t even be able to be on the board. And we were like, “This is the Covid NineTEEN Project for a reason.”

Jen:

Yeah.

Sarah:

We’re not giving up control of that. We care about what we’re doing.

Jen:

I’m a CEO, appreciate me.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Jen:

Wow, so you’re really taking advantage of a lot of the really good free tools too.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Jen:

And doing a lot of automation and stuff like that to try and make it easier, right? Okay. Well, I guess let me know if you need any help with any of that stuff. I can help you with some automation and stuff like that if you need it.

Sarah:

Thank you. Your expertise is so, so helpful. Also, I just wanted to say another thing that we found is an amazing tool is just Instagram for networking.

We have found that Instagram is such a powerful tool. What we’ll do oftentimes is just going through on our recommended accounts and finding them, then going through their followers and just finding in common things that are teen based initiatives or female-run organizations, any organizations or companies that are talking about education, anything about entrepreneurship.

Those are normally the four categories we look for.

Sarah:

We create lists and we reach out to them, and we’re like, “Hey, is there any way that we could collaborate or partner on anything? We would love to help promote what you’re doing, and we would love it if you could do the same for us.”

Or we’re also looking into hosting camps where we have these different activities we host.

We have these different literary magazines and arts organizations, and they’re like, “Hey, can we host one week-long camp where we have one activity per day?” And we’re like, “Sure, we’d love to partner with your organization.” And hosting stuff like that is how we’ve been networking.

Jen:

Sure. Yeah.

Sarah:

Now we’ve reached out to hundreds and hundreds of Instagram accounts, to the point where it was literally like we couldn’t send any more direct messages because we were sending too many.

Jen:

Because you maxed out on that too?

Sarah:

Yes.

Jen:

Wow, you guys just max out the services.

Sarah:

Yes. But outreach has been the key for us, and we have really used social media to our advantage. Because we can’t see people in person, organizing those Zoom calls to meet with other organization leaders, talking to different podcasts like yours, and getting to reach out to people who really have expertise in some fields that we may be lacking a bit in.

Jen:

Yeah.

Sarah:

We’re able to learn a lot from them, and also they are able to promote what we’re doing and help us make an even bigger difference in the world.

Jen:

So this project, oddly enough, reminds me of a project that I ran when I was in the Peace Corps. I wrote a grant. It was a mini-grant for Youth Services Day, it was something like international.

And I taught the kids to be the teachers for the younger kids, and then we just basically took over the whole school and had an art show and sports, all kinds of things. But it was only one day. One of the things that are so cool about this is that it’s a sustained effort.

How long have you been doing it, and then how long do you think you’ll be able to keep it up?

Skye:

This is the seventh week of our live sessions, but it’s only the second week of our summer schedule that’s 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Before, we were just doing afternoon sessions and evening sessions that were after school because we were still in school and all the students were still in school for the most part.

But we’re planning on continuing this summer schedule through early August because I know at least in Los Angeles most of us go back to school in mid-August.

And then we’ll transition back to that after school schedule, but it might be a little bit altered now that we have people from the East Coast as well, so we might change the timing a little bit. But we definitely plan to continue this through December at least.

Sarah:

Yeah, December 2020 is at the least.

We hope to be able to continue it into the Spring semester, even if there isn’t a pandemic going on because offering this after school is so important.

But because it was founded as a crisis relief project, we would probably be sort of disbanding operations in the spring or even the winter if we don’t think it needs to go past then. But we want it to serve as a model for future organizations if there’s a pandemic, or even if there’s not.

Showing how you can offer free distance learning opportunities for so many kids that wouldn’t be able to access it otherwise. We have art classes, athletics, academics. We have kids that just come to our tutoring, not because they have homework, it’s summer now.

Sarah:

We have English language learner students, and we 14 different languages available right now, and we’re continually expanding so being able to expand their knowledge. But also we have kids coming to tutoring and they’re like, “Hey, I want to learn about astronomy today?

I want to learn how to speak French. I want to learn about the Cold War.” I literally had this lesson with this girl, and she was like, “I’m in fourth grade, I live in Virginia. I just want to learn a lot about World War II.”

And I sat with her for an hour, and I just did one-on-one tutoring with her. I taught her stuff that kids don’t normally learn until high school. We have kids wanting to learn about entrepreneurship, about economics, things that you wouldn’t be learning at that age, but they’re really able to expand their horizons and reach their fullest potential.

Jen:

That’s really cool. Are you both teaching sessions as well?

Sarah:

Yeah. I have two activities today, and Skye, you have two activities plus tutoring today, right?

Skye:

Yeah.

Jen:

Okay.

Skye, what is your favorite activity that you’re teaching right now?

Skye:

I think one of my favorite activities, I’ve been leading this every week since the beginning, is journaling. It’s just so amazing. We always give the kids prompts to write about and just kind of start thinking about some big topics, and they just always have the most amazing things to say.

And it’s so nice to get little glimpses of their lives and just hear their plans for the future or thinks about their friends.

We did the lesson the other day about why music is important, and even that was just so fun to sit through because the kids just have so many amazing things to share, and I just love that session every single week.

Jen:

That’s cool.

Sarah:

Oh Skye, you should say about what the kid said about climate change.

Skye:

Oh my gosh. We had this student, this was a few weeks ago, but our lesson plan was about what you want for the future.

One of the questions was about what job do you want when you grow up, and we expected the typical answers, like, “I want to be a teacher. I want to be a doctor. I want to be a vet.” And this kid starts talking about how he wants a Ph.D. in environmental sciences so that he can end climate change and build his own eco-friendly mansion that’s sourced sustainably. And we’re just sitting there like… But it was so cool.

Jen:

No, that’s amazing. That’s really cool.

Sarah:

It’s so inspiring. These kids have the biggest ambitions, and to be able to show them we’re two teenagers, and now we’re working with hundreds and hundreds of people on a daily basis from all over the world, no one thought we could do it, but then we did it. And we just showed them. And having these kids see that, and they’re like, “I want to do something like that. I want to think big.” And they don’t feel like they have to minimize their ambitions based on what they see others doing because now they see us, they see all these teens who are doing all these incredible things in the world. And then they’re like, “Hey, I could do that too.”

Jen:

Yeah, it’s opening up the whole world of possibilities, right?

Sarah:

Yeah.

Jen:

You’re just unlocking so much potential in people and really providing equity. There are so many people who have… Unfortunately, the one thing you can’t overcome is the digital divide, so there are people who don’t have computers and don’t have access. You can’t help those people remotely, that’s just one of the problems we have with social distancing. But you are in fact opening new worlds for kids and topics that they wouldn’t otherwise have exposure to.

Sarah, what’s your favorite class to teach?

Sarah:

That’s the hardest question. I’ll tell you about the classes I teach. I can’t really decide on a favorite though. I do a Lego class where every week we have different prompts and they build something new. I host Let’s Explore Environmental Science, Save Our Earth conservation class, Zumba with Skye, grammar with Skye, Shark Tank Little Entrepreneurs with Skye, Harry Potter read aloud.

Jen:

What?

Sarah:

I do too many. I can’t think-

Jen:

Harry Potter read aloud?

Sarah:

Yes. I love Harry Potter. We have Harry Potter read aloud and Harry Potter crafts and Star Wars crafts.

Jen:

Wow.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Jen:

Okay, cool.

Sarah:

Literally the fangirl in me. I get to wear my Harry Potter robe.

I have all my Harry Potter memorabilia out, and the kids, a lot of them come dressed up too. And their send in pictures. They send in pictures of them in their robe and reading their books along with us. It’s the most amazing thing.

Honestly, I wake up every day feeling motivated and excited. I was so dreading this summer because when I found out that everything is canceled, we’re amidst a pandemic, I was like, “What am I going to do?” I’m the type of person that I am a workaholic. It is bad. Skye has tried to make me take off a day.

I can’t let myself take off a day. We’ve been doing this since the end of April nonstop. I can’t be separated from it. It’s like my baby.

Jen:

Yeah. You’ve got to rest though. You’ve got to rest.

Sarah:

I know. I’m trying.

Jen:

It’s a hot tip from an entrepreneur who struggles with rest as well. You’ve got to rest, otherwise, you’ll just get really tired and kind of cranky and not know why. And it’s just that you get really tired. It is possible, even if it’s what you love to do, it’s possible to get really tired.

Sarah:

Yeah. I’m trying. Hopefully I get better.

Jen:

Take care of yourself, that’s a big part of this world that you’re joining in with me. I have a couple of last questions. One, you seem to be doing a lot around the climate and climate change.

What is maybe the most important thing that you could tell adults about climate change that you think that we need to change that you’re not seeing?

Sarah:

Okay. There’s so many things.

Jen:

I know.

Sarah:

I don’t know where to start.

Yeah, Skye wants to major in business in college and I want to major in public policy and environmental policy.

So I guess that questions are sort of up my area of almost expertise. What I want to be an expert in, I guess.

But I think something really important is focusing on the switch to clean energy, renewable energy, and trying to implement solutions that they’re not necessarily too costly. But just working on transitioning towards those different mechanisms of powering our homes, but in a way that uses much less. And also, I think that ghost power, about how if you keep your devices plugged in when it’s not charging, it’s still taking up electricity, it’s still using energy.

Sarah:

I think not a lot of parents really know about that. In our Save Our Planet conservation class, tomorrow we’re talking about renewable versus nonrenewable energy and resources, how they can conserve. Our last class was talking about reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse. It’s really important to realize that simple sacrifices we make in our daily lives can make a huge difference, and especially on the corporate level and how different… For example, businesses, this is a business podcast, so many businesses can work towards using light bulbs that consume less electricity, and in the long run, it’s going to save them money. There are a lot of cost-effective solutions like that that they can implement in their daily lives and making their business and the world as a whole just a much more sustainable and friendly place to the environment.

Jen:

Absolutely, cool. Skye, what do you have on this?

Skye:

The whole environmental thing, I’m very conscious of it, but not as invested in it as Sarah. I think really just like Sarah was saying, making simple changes to your daily life can make such a difference. I don’t really use plastic water bottles. I have Hydro Flask that I pretty much carry it with me at all times. And just simple actions like that can make such a difference, just by changing little habits in your life that you wouldn’t even think about that much once you’ve made the change.

Sarah:

Yeah, and I think that there are so many ways that you can just… There are so many crafts, for example. You can get kids involved in them too, for instance. I know we have a class, it’s Make a Bird Feeder, and what you can do is you can take a toilet paper roll when you’re done with the toilet paper, if you cover it in peanut butter or sunflower seed butter, you can put nuts on it, little fruits, or you could put just birdseed. You could just hang it on your tree. That’s just one example, otherwise, you would just be throwing away or recycling the toilet paper roll. But there are so many little easy crafts like that that are just minimizing the waste in our society.

Sarah:

It’s so easy to compost, and I love it. I have an at-home sustainable garden all throughout my house. I have a composting, and honestly, implementing things like composting at workplaces as well is super important because there are many things like a banana peel, stuff like that. You can make such a difference in the world even when you’re at work, even when you’re running a business. I think that’s really important.

Jen:

No, I totally agree.

You’re both 17, are you going to turn 18 before the election?

Skye:

No.

Sarah:

Sadly, no. And I am very mad about it. I turn 18 on January 31st. So close, yet so far.

Jen:

Totally.

Skye:

My birthday is like two weeks later.

Sarah:

Yeah, we’re two weeks apart, which is fun.

Jen:

Because I think that we need you to vote.

Sarah:

Oh, I wish more than anything that we could vote.

Jen:

But you’re excited about being able to vote, and so when you’re able you will be engaged in that process.

Skye:

Yes, definitely.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Jen:

Okay.

Sarah:

Civic engagement is just so important. It’s of the utmost importance. We definitely instill that in the kids that we’re talking to as well. We talk to them about the power of their voice, the power of their vote. About how their ballot can truly make a difference in the world, and I think that you need to really instill that from a young age and pre-register to vote. If anyone is listening to this, I know probably most people are older than a teen, but even if you are a teen, or even if you’re older and you still haven’t, once you’re 16 years old you can pre-register to vote, so important. And also, as an adult, if you’re not voting, get to the polls. I wish I could vote. Take advantage of it.

Jen:

Yeah, in Oregon we have a mail-in vote for everybody. It’s not just absentee ballots, we have it for everything. And we still only have… They’re like, “We had an amazing turnout, 40%.” And I’m like, “That’s it?”

Sarah:

No.

Jen:

To me, that’s so disappointing.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Jen:

It’s literally brought into my house along with a voter pamphlet about every single person. We also have the internet here in Oregon.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Jen:

There’s really no excuse, and you don’t even have to pay to mail it. You can drop it off somewhere, it’s so easy, and yet people don’t take advantage of that. It’s a privilege and a right that so few people actually take advantage of. I’m glad to see…

I figured since you’re doing all of this that you’d be very engaged in your community. And where you live, it is unlikely that you’ll have in-person next year.

On Having a Virtual Senior Year

Sarah:

Yeah, very unlikely.

Jen:

Very unlikely.

Sarah:

Yeah, we go to a school with about 6,000 kids, maybe even a little more because we have multiple campuses for our school.

It’s the third-largest public school in the United States, so there’s not really any way that we’re going to have the beginning of our senior year in person, which is… It sucks. But at the same time, we’re just finding ways to make the best of it.

The Covid NineTEEN Project, for us that’s the silver lining of everything that’s happening. Obviously, in an ideal world, we would be having our senior year per normal, per usual.

Sarah:

Getting to go to those football games, getting to have a homecoming. But if we can’t do those things, the least we could do is provide other experiences for others digitally.

Oh, also I just wanted to tell you, one of the classes, I don’t know why, it just popped in my mind. I thought you would like this because Women Conquer Business, we have Fierce Females class, and we talk about women in business, women in politics, and women throughout history who have been making a difference. And so that way boys and girls, or those who aren’t a boy or a girl or non-binary, they can-

Jen:

Non-binary.

Sarah:

Yeah, if they’re non-binary too, they can enjoy it.

Jen:

See, and I think that’s wonderful. I am still learning a lot about women throughout history because I wasn’t taught that in school. And then I’ll read about somebody and I’m like, “Well, that person’s awesome.” I appreciate that you’re amplifying history and voices so that other people can learn about them and can aspire to be something great. I think that that’s… You’re definitely conquering business, ladies. You are doing it.

Sarah:

Thank you.

Jen:

I am so happy and so glad that you reached out to find me.

Do you have any closing thoughts? And then please let people know how they can reach you.

Sarah:

Just to close, we just wanted to thank you so much for this amazing opportunity. Skye and I, we look up to women in business and getting to see that you’re doing something so amazing to amplify the voices of women, promoting instead of history, herstory.

I think that’s super cool, as cheesy as that sounds, it’s so important, especially in today’s day and age. Skye, do you want to say about how to contact us if anyone wants to?

Skye:

Yeah. You can find us Instagram and on Facebook @covidnineteenproject. You can also find all of our information on our website, covidnineteenproject.com. That’s where our signups are for any kids that want to join, that’s where our signups for any teens that want to volunteer.

And our applications will be opening again on Friday if anybody is interested.

Sarah:

And also it’s spelled out, so COVID nine teen spelled out because the TEEN is emphasized since it’s all teen run. And also, if anyone wants to contact us about any ideas they have for us, if they have expertise in a certain field and want to provide that guidance, we’d love that.

We have a contact feature on our website.

Jen:

Gosh, I think that that’s so great. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Skye:

Thanks for having us.

Sarah:

Thank you so much for having us.

End Credits

Jen:

Thank you for listening to the Women Conquer Business podcast. If you’re wondering what’s next, here are a few suggestions. If you love the show, be sure to subscribe. If you want to follow me on social media, you can find Women Conquer Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. And finally, if the episode today brought something up for you and you need to talk, email me at hello@jenmcfarland.com. The Women Conquer Business podcast is written and produced by Jen McFarland and Foster Growth LLC in beautiful southeast Portland, Oregon. Thanks again for listening.

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