|Shad Valley Alum Promotes Youth Leadership
At the age of 19, Shad Valley University of Calgary alum Jennifer Corriero co-founded one of the most successful youth-oriented non-profits in Canada. At that time, she and her friend Michael Furdyk were rollerblading and talking about their dreams: what if they could do anything they wanted? Their wish was to get young people involved in social change and to use technology to do it. Thus began TakingITGlobal, an online community for youth around the world. A decade later, Jennifer is managing a team of 30 staff plus over 300 volunteers internationally, and an annual budget of over 1 million.
“Starting a non-profit has been an evolution, with Michael and I learning as we go. As an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to take risks. We pilot ideas and they change in the process. Planning is important, but it’s also necessary to be flexible as things develop along the way,” says Jennifer. “Ongoing interaction with people is key because that helps us keep up with trends and be at the forefront of social innovation.”
The TakingITGlobal website has become a powerful online community that facilitates global education, social entrepreneurship and civic engagement for millions of youth worldwide. With over 375,000 members in 200 countries, and more than 5 million unique visitors annually, the website drives cross-cultural awareness and cooperation in the next generation of leaders. The goal is to empower youth to understand and act on the world's greatest challenges.
Developing Leadership Potential
To Jennifer, leadership involves helping others see their own potential while defining success on their own terms. All individuals have their own vision of possibilities, and there are many ways to be successful. What’s important is to enable people to find opportunities through organizations like TakingITGlobal and, also, for them to realize that it’s possible to create their own opportunities. Guiding youth to their own idea of leadership is a crucial step.
“If we unleash the leadership potential in youth, then these skills manifest themselves when they are older. That creates a sturdy foundation for future world leaders to have strong values and the ability to make sound decisions,” explains Jennifer. “Excellent leaders are observant, good listeners. They can see outside themselves and, at the same time, know themselves.”
Much of Jennifer’s role is to facilitate connections between what people care about and opportunities for action. She feels that not cultivating people’s passions and leadership ability is an enormous loss for society. Defining success from different perspectives opens up prospects for personal growth and brings about positive social change. That’s what TakingITGlobal is all about.