A new program is looking to empower young changemakers
The Ambition Accelerator, the product of a partnership between Taco Bell Foundation and Ashoka, will equip young people to create positive social change.
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May 3 marked the official launch of the Ambition Accelerator, a new program designed to help young people seeking to enact change in their communities and around the world.
This accelerator is a product of a critical partnership between the Taco Bell Foundation and global social entrepreneurship leader, Ashoka.
Seven years ago, the Taco Bell Foundation launched the Live Más Scholarship, an alternative scholarship program that awards students based on their passions, rather than their academic merit or athletic ability.
The new Ambition Accelerator serves as an extension of the scholarship program.
“What we've heard from our students has always been they love that we've been able to fund their passions, and that they've been able to go to school or get a degree or, continue on that path of pursuing their passion,” Jennifer Bradbury, executive director of the Taco Bell Foundation, told AL DÍA.
Now that many of the earlier recipients of the scholarship have graduated, some have gone on to start their own nonprofits and become social entrepreneurs.
However, there are others who have sought further help in pursuing their passions and using them to promote positive social change.
“So we kind of all put our heads together, we found an amazing partner in Ashoka… one of the largest organizations that brings young changemakers together,” added Bradbury. “We've partnered with them to really help us figure out the right way to do this.”
Founded in 1980, Ashoka is “best known for pioneering the field of social entrepreneurship,” said Tia Johnston Brown, executive director of Ashoka’s US Youth Years.
She noted that the organization has developed over 4,000 social entrepreneurs across 90 countries. However, in more recent years as the organization has analyzed the experiences a number of the fellows have endured as social entrepreneurs, it was found that most fellows were put in position to lead at a young age, and those who work with young people did the same.
Those two findings are what sparked the youth-related work that Johnston-Brown leads at Ashoka today.
“It was an understanding that youth were a really underutilized resource in society, and that we really needed a paradigm shift in the way that young people were viewed and valued in society,” she said.
Overcoming Societal Challenges
There are various challenges that are facing younger generations, challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“I think what we’re hearing loud and clear — and it’s from all of our students, but particularly in underserved communities — it’s the access to resources and access to support,” said Bradbury.
Among the many benefits of the Ambition Accelerator is that every applicant will gain access to a network of mentors and professionals who can help them in their endeavors.
“Every single young person, we’re committing to help with programming to further their pursuit because we really believe that anyone that’s taking the time to apply and has gotten to that point in applying has an idea worth exploring further,” Bradbury added.
Johnston Brown added that Ashoka operates with the vision of creating a society where every young person has a changemaker mindset who can realize their power to create change in the world.
“Every day we go to work and our job is to create a society in which we all realize that power and value those change making skills,” she said.
In such a fast-paced world, there are a multitude of skills that need to be mastered in order to thrive in this environment.
The partnership will seek to help young people obtain those skills and use them to advance into the next chapter of their journeys.
“To us, the change making skills of empathy, teamwork and leadership… are what are really going to make a difference in terms of the way we’re all going to be able to operate once we leave school and start our lives,” said Johnston Brown.
The idea is to both educate and inspire the younger generation to become the future leaders of the nation, and beyond.
About the Ambition Accelerator
The Ambition Accelerator is open to anyone from the U.S. or U.S. territories between the ages of 16 and 26 with game-changing social impact ideas.
Applicants can apply as individuals or teams, but are encouraged to apply as a team. Teams who apply will all receive access to mentorship, feedback, resources, and opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals.
Select teams will also be eligible for a chance to attend the Taco Bell headquarters summit in November to pitch their changemaking ideas, and win a grand prize.
This year, the program is only available in the U.S., however, Bradbury noted that the goal is to take the program internationally.
“This is happening across the world, and there’s great ideas everywhere,” she said.
“Taco Bell is growing internationally, so we want to make sure we’re helping our team members and our customers in all the countries that we do business in,” Bradbury added.
Applications will be accepted through July 21, 2022. For more details or to apply for the Ambition Accelerator, click here.