The Agnes Irwin School is partnering with the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice, and Schoolyard Ventures, an organization that develops university-level, real-world learning opportunities for ambitious high school students, to provide an immersive educational experience through The Social Innovators Program. Agnes Irwin is one of only eight schools nationwide invited to participate and the only partner school in Pennsylvania.
The Social Innovators Program is a 13-week, independent initiative — featuring curriculum developed by professors at the University of Pennsylvania and academic professionals at Schoolyard Ventures — that offers students a unique, real-world experience in developing their ideas and passions into companies, nonprofits, and social movements. Agnes Irwin students who complete the program will receive a certificate in social entrepreneurship from the university.
Led by University of Pennsylvania educators, students develop an entrepreneurial mindset that focuses on the development and implementation of solutions to social, cultural, and environmental issues for the greater good — a defining trait of social entrepreneurship. The experience culminates in a related final project, allowing students to research, plan, and present on a topic that they are passionate about and hope to use as a catalyst for change. Participants collaborate with others from their own schools as well as cohorts from Baltimore, New York City, and Washington, D.C. — allowing for additional avenues for feedback, ideation, and networking.
Bringing The Social Innovators Program to Agnes Irwin aligns with the school’s emphasis on providing new, rigorous opportunities for growth and collaboration. “Agnes Irwin forms partnerships with leading universities to employ girl-centered research that indicates that one of the best ways we can advance girls — especially in fields typically dominated by men, such as entrepreneurship — is by exposing them to that profession,” remarks Bridgette Ouimette, director of research and strategic partnerships for the Center for the Advancement of Girls at The Agnes Irwin School.
The Social Innovators Program and social entrepreneurship also offer girls authentic ways to practice healthy risk-taking and overcome failure — both of which are essential components of the learning process and integrated throughout the Agnes Irwin curriculum. “Entrepreneurship is extremely iterative,” Ouimette explained. “Failure is baked right in. … You have to go back and fix it and do it all over again. Reflection is good for them [the girls]. Feedback is good for them. Supported failure is going to be beneficial for them to encourage further risk-taking.”
Students are actively applying to participate in The Social Innovators Program now and will join the cohort of eight partner schools beginning in the fall of 2019.