Graded’s first “Start-up, Stay-up” conference

Student members of the Innovate Club and members of faculty and administration have come together to create a three-day workshop called “Start-up, Stay-up.” This student-led conference will be held at Graded from March 5-7 in conjunction with the Innovate Conference that will run that same week.

As stated in the event’s website, this workshop is an opportunity for students to learn how to start an organization of their own “aimed at helping others who are in need” with the special guidance of experienced social entrepreneurs. Students from all over São Paulo will come together and work in groups towards an idea or project relating to social entrepreneurship. At the end of the three-day session, groups will be given the opportunity to present their project to a panel of experts.

The ultimate goal for this conference would be to get one of these ideas to actually get started, funded, and make a difference

According to senior Lucas Auriemo, member of the Innovate Club, High School Principal Mr. Peterson put together the club after attending a student-led conference held in another school. Auriemo explained, “He wanted to do something very similar at Graded, so he put together a team and “Start-up, Stay-up” has been one of the projects we’ve been working on from the very beginning.” Senior Gabi Campos added, “We thought it was important to have this student part, because it’s pertinent to the topic of education and [as receivers of] the education, we thought it was interesting to have students be part of the conference.”

Senior Niklas Hildebrandt had the idea of participating in conferences since last school year, before the creation of the Innovate Club. “I wanted to present at the AASSA conference talking about education, and I really needed a partner, so I got Gabi and we worked on this idea of presenting at the AASSA conference, but it was too late,” he said. However, with the suggestion from Mr. Peterson and addition of new members, the group has been preparing for this conference over the past six months.

Faculty members Keren Soriano, Jamie Tuttle, and Sandra Greenwald volunteered to help the club with its planning. Soriano explained that the group began by brainstorming the theme for the conference at the beginning of first semester, and it met regularly after school, “but it took us some time to decide on Social Entrepreneurship.”

“Next we sought out a facilitator to lead the conference,” Tuttle added, “When we found our facilitator, Mark Lund, things really started moving quickly. Mark has so much experience as an entrepreneur and teaching entrepreneurship. Having graduated from Graded and lived in Brazil his whole life, he really understands the needs of the local communities.” As a facilitator, Lund has helped with the organization of the schedule, “so we’re going to have some case studies in the start and learn a bit about entrepreneurship, and that’s entirely Lund. Then he’s also got some responses for us, and basically makes sure everything goes smoothly,” Hildebrandt added.

Campos commented that the preparation process has served as a good experience for her: “I think that I grew a lot in the organization of the whole thing, because it’s complicated, you know. You have to adjust prices, hospitality, logistics and schedule. Those kinds of things are a little annoying to do, but it’s an important skill to have, so I think I really developed those organizational skills.”

Faculty members have also enjoyed the collaboration between students and teachers. Soriano said that working with students outside of class “gives us a great chance to get to know students in a more meaningful way.” She added, “We enjoyed working with high school students as they have so many skills and talents to bring to the team.”

Members of club, both students and faculty alike, have expressed great hopes and expectations for the success and future of the club. Many have hopes that it will become an annual event. “The ultimate goal for this conference would be to get one of these ideas to actually get started, funded, and make a difference,” Auriemo said.

With dedication from students, Hildebrandt believes that the conference can become a success. “If people are passionate about it and come with a good idea or framework in mind and decide to work hard for the three days,” he said, “I think it’s going to be a great experience for everyone.”