Visible Connect Wednesday: Meet WeThrive

This June, Visible proudly announced the second cohort of its annual Visible Connect Accelerator Program, which supports nonprofit organizations changing their communities using mobile technology. In partnership with Uncharted, Visible Connect awards each nonprofit in the accelerator a $15,000 financial grant and free mobile devices with one year of Visible service. Visible and Uncharted will work alongside these game-changing entrepreneurs to help them elevate their organizations and connect them with the resources, services, expertise and relationships they need to accelerate their impact.

Daquan Oliver and Danielle Espiritu are teammates at WeThrive.
Daquan Oliver and Danielle Espiritu are teammates at WeThrive.

Over the past six weeks, we’ve introduced one inspiring nonprofit within our cohort, honing in on how they’re using mobile technology to create meaningful change in our community.

Daquan Oliver and Danielle Espiritu are teammates at WeThrive, equipping underestimated youth to own their own future by helping teachers increase classroom engagement, real-world learning and future-readiness by creating student-run companies, earning real revenues.

What inspired you to create WeThrive?
Daquan Oliver:
I grew up in a single-parent household. My mother, she really defied the odds. I’ve had this vision (of WeThrive) since I was 14 years old. One night, I felt this overwhelming sense that my mom had done everything she could and we were still not in the best of places, and I didn’t know anyone else who was either. I didn’t have anyone I could look at and say ‘that’s success.’ I started to think, ‘I’m never going to make it.’ And then, in that same exact moment, I thought ‘No, f*ck that. My mama has worked too hard for me to just give up and not to be the best entrepreneur of my generation.’ I made a promise to myself that, despite all obstacles in my path, I would be successful and make sure everyone coming from a community like mine would have the opportunity to achieve success as well.
Danielle Espiritu: I wasn’t taught or empowered when I went to school to change something that I didn’t like. So with WeThrive, we really are giving young people the power, confidence and leadership skills to change things that they see that don’t sit well with them, whether it’s injustice, or something that they can improve on, or do better to really help their communities.

What does WeThrive provide middle and high school students?
Daquan Oliver:
The vision at WeThrive is to ensure every young person who is underestimated, or living in one of the many underestimated communities across the nation, has a legitimate pathway towards economic leadership and success. Traditionally, these communities have been locked out. Students in WeThrive create their own companies and bring an idea to market. Some students have earned more than $2000 in revenue within the first few months of operation. Eighty-four percent of students tell us they have continued to run their companies for more than a year or have started new ones. Most of the companies start new initiatives, mostly clubs within schools, that are solving real issues — from those faced by members of LGBTQ community, all the way to anti-bullying and violence prevention. Overall, WeThrive is equipping underestimated youth to own their future. It’s less about entrepreneurship than it is about opportunities, resources and making sure students are surrounded by adult champions. Entrepreneurship is just an amazing vehicle to make sure those things align.
Danielle Espiritu: We call them future ready skills, or real-world skills, so that when they leave the program, or when they leave school, they are ready to tackle any challenges that come their way. They’re ready to make really great decisions, solve problems, be leaders in their community, voice their ideas, and really work together and bring it back to their communities.

Founder Daquan Oliver talking with Visible Connect Expert, Liam Kirby at the Visible Connect boot camp.

How do you empower students to become entrepreneurs?
Daquan Oliver:
Nothing in WeThrive is theoretical. Students are addressing everything from violence prevention and anti-bullying, to promoting new sustainable practices within their school, to changing the way that lunch is run within a school to promote deeper inclusion. And so within that, we’re ensuring students are given the autonomy and leeway to solve problems and have the support to make it happen. And then, as that transformation happens, when they change their mindset from looking at a problem and having legitimate solutions, to now knowing their solutions can work — we’re supporting that process and championing that young person to be the kind of change-maker we all need in this nation.

Does WeThrive operate in schools or outside of schools?
Daquan Oliver:
We are partnering with learning constructs around the country. Some of them are school systems, but sometimes students learn best in their local YMCA or housing authority. Wherever those learning constructs exist, that’s where we begin to build those pathways.
Danielle Espiritu: Once an entity decides they want to partner with us, my role is to onboard and train our teachers/instructors. We have a 15-lesson curriculum and we really encourage the teachers to put a lot of themselves into the program. How can they take what they’re already learning in the classroom and weave in WeThrive? It’s synergistic with everything.

How does mobile technology play a role in WeThrive?
Danielle Esperitau:
Currently, the teachers in the program are using the WeThrive app. It’s where they access everything about the program, resources, the curriculum. They can speak with me, with other teachers in the community, find help, tips and access to guides. We also hold virtual office hours where students can have online mentoring meetings with our business professionals. They’re able to connect with so many people to can share their ideas and receive feedback.

What have students who have completed WeThrive go on to do?
Daquan Oliver:
Students have gone on to deliver TED talks, they’ve gone on to attend college, they’ve gone on to continue to create change within their communities. And they’re individuals that have been once labeled as troublemakers and are now the individuals in their schools that others are looking up to in sixth grade, for example, and saying, ‘man, I really want to be like that eighth grader when I grow up.’ And when I form my own company I solve my own idea in the community.

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