Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

Inside LITE with Student Jose Ayala

Photos: LITE

Let’s Innovate Through Education is an exciting opportunity for high school students to learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and potentially launch their own nonprofits!

Jose Ayala is a senior at Kingsbury High School who hopes to one day start a nonprofit business to equip teachers to better work with students who have mental health issues. Class Lighthouse, Jose’s nonprofit idea, will teach educators how to address common issues such as students with substance abuse, depression, and anxiety. Jose’s interest in creating a solution to this problem comes from his interest in studying the brain and one day becoming a psychologist.

Jose Ayala with Pamela Urquieta and Hardy Farrow, Source: LITE

Without the help of Let’s Innovate Through Education, or LITE, Jose’s idea would be just that- a good idea. He first became interested in LITE through hearing about it from a staff member at Streets Ministries. As a high school student, Jose has been going to Streets for 6 years and helps to coordinate Streets Smarts, a literacy initiative that provides volunteer tutors to 2nd and 3rd grade students to increase their reading skills. Because he always wanted to start a business, Jose attended an interest meeting and decided that he wanted to be a part of LITE.

It was a good opportunity and I felt like I was going to be able to grow and be better prepared for college – Jose Ayala

Jose went through the semester-long program in the spring of 2017 where he learned how to share an idea that was so personal to him and develop it into a viable business model. LITE is a nonprofit organization in Memphis that equips African-American and Latinx students from high schools around the city with 21st-century skills to create wealth. Forbes named LITE one of the 20 ideas that could change the world! They do this by strategically serving Memphis students with a 3-part program:

  • Step one: build 21st century skill through executing an entrepreneurial idea in high school
  • Step two: build networks through paid internships in college
  • Step three: acquire a high-wage job or build a business to create wealth by age 25

LITE classes, Source: LITE

During the first step of the program, Jose learned how to take his idea and make it a reality. Students work with each other and business professionals who have backgrounds in starting and owning a business to learn the most important skills in entrepreneurship, including developing a business model canvas, strong communication skills, time management, sending professional emails, and conducting market research. Jose describes what it was like to go through the program and attend weekly training classes:

It was high stress and time consuming, but it was worth it because it gave me the opportunity to see what real life is like and what it’s like to have a commitment – Jose Ayala

After completing the entrepreneurship training course, Jose and all of the LITE students took their ideas to pitch night where they had the opportunity to pitch to potential investor. From his experience, Jose learned the importance of having good communication skills as well as building connections and relationships with people. Going forward, Jose will continue developing his business and recruiting partners to help him launch it, and will remain in LITE’s community so they can help him with college applications, the FAFSA, scholarships, internships, and more for the next 5 years.

As a result of going through the program, I have a better outlook on what it’s like to own a business, and I understand all the work that goes into starting your own business – Jose Ayala

Jose has one piece of advice for any high school students who may be considering applying for LITE:

Don’t be afraid of the challenges and stress because it’s going to prepare you for college and life and it’s going to pay off!

Are you a high school student with an innovative idea for a nonprofit to benefit your community? Apply for LITE today!

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