Dallas City of Learning

Creating Creators Internationally, part 3

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Sergio, August 25, 2019

Creating Creators is hard work, but it’s work worth doing. The weeks of prep leading up to Festival Ñapita was not without its obstacles. One of the bigger challenges was building a relationship with the young aspiring entrepreneurs that I have come to adore. It turns out that youth are essentially the same regardless of where they live. 

Betzy and her crew from Dandelion Media quickly got to work with our workshops on branding, marketing, and investment. Of course there were levels of interest and disinterest. It was the disinterest that captured my attention, of course. Many liked the idea of coming up with their own brand, logo, and concepts, allowing them to stretch their creative muscles. But, when it came to the communication and investment portions of the workshops, there were a lot of furrowed brows, confused looks, and frustrated tempers.  When I asked why they felt this way, more often than not, it was because they didn’t know how to explain themselves. They didn’t have the words because they had never experienced the opportunity to

  1. create something on their from their own interests
  2. communicate in a way that allowed them to express their ideas
  3. understand the value in explaining themselves to others and how that can benefit them.    

It was like pulling teeth to get them to speak. Most were able to overcome through coaching, and once given the incentive of more cookies, they started to step up to the plate.

As we progressed throughout the week, I realized another factor that contributed to the waxing and waning of interest. Our young entrepreneurs are accustomed to living in the now, as most youth are, but especially our young entrepreneurs whose lives are day by day, moment by moment. 

How can we utilize their “live in the moment” perspective as an asset? How do I take their ephemera, harness it for good, and begin to create creators in this group?

Big ThoughtCreating Creators Internationally, part 3

Creating Creators Internationally, part 2

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Sergio, August 21, 2019

Week one has quickly passed, and the work for Festival Ñapita is in full swing.  And true to Big Thought’s way of working, we hit the ground running with site visits, programming and event planning.  (Ñapita comes from the colloquial use of the word for an exchange of goods/services where one gives a little more in the process.) And of course authentic partnerships were a huge part of the effort. We collaborated closely with Dandelion Media, Aldeas Infintales SOS, Panama, and YLAI to prepare youth from Aldeas Infinatles to host their own entrepreneurial fair. 

Together with our partner organizations, we are empowering youth ages 12-18 to develop their entrepreneurial skills to inspire them to become the creators of their own futures beyond their stay at Aldeas Infintales. Youth are creating products for sale based on their personal interests. Items and products ranged from cookies and cupcakes, to hand crafted decorative items for the home.  Youth will have an opportunity to sell their products at Festival Ñapita and keep their proceeds from their sales.

We are challenging them to think beyond their current situation with the ultimate goal of imparting creative thinking, entrepreneurial and emotional intelligence skills. 

As I begin my work with the young creators of Festival Ñapita, I began to think more about the process of creating creators and barriers that inhibit the creator in myself and in others. What stood out as one of the biggest, but easiest barriers to overcome, is language. When a person knows how to “speak the language” then a true connection can be made to begin the creator’s process.   

Yes, I speak Spanish and understand the language so I’ve been able to easily maneuver my travels here in Panama.  But just because I understand the language, doesn’t mean I can fully connect to a person to be able to engage them, inspire them, and/or motivate them to become a creator.  “What more do I need to know?,” I asked myself. I need to know HOW to talk to them.

Speaking the language means more than understanding the raw words being shared.  It means being able to connect through culture, through identity, and through the understanding of lived experiences. I need to get on their level.

This concept holds true for the youth that I engage with in the States.  I have to be able to speak to youth on their level. When I’m been able to connect with youth on their level, is where I find the “Ahha!” moments in life. For me and for them. 

For Festival Ñapita, the youth at Aldeas Infintales are like any other youth in the States, or even around the world for that matter.  They are eager, they are distracted, they are pushing through their barriers of childhood to adulthood. It was interesting for me to see how youth are no more different in Panama than they are in the States. 

That was the second barrier that I had to overcome. Perception. Why did I think youth here in Panama would be different than in the States? 

I’m still working through that, but, for now, I’m enamored by these young creators. And now, it is my job to break down those barriers of language and perception to inspire the creator inside each of them. I have to overcome my own barriers of fear and inadequacy. I have to connect with them on their level so that they can trust me. I want them to trust me enough to share their interests and experiences, so that I can inspire the creator in them.  Luckily, I brought cookies for them to begin to build that bridge and build that trust.      

Read Sergio’s Week Three Experience 

Big ThoughtCreating Creators Internationally, part 2

Creating Creators Internationally

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Think globally, act locally.

Sergio Garcia, Big Thought Program Manager, put that philosophy into action when he traveled to Panama through the Young Leaders of Americas Initiative (YLAI) to assist in developing programming for marginalized youth in Panama. Sergio reunited with Betzy Arosemena, who had spent five weeks shadowing Big Thought in summer 2018.

Sergio, August 14, 2019

While I’m sitting at the airport terminal, waiting to board my flight to Panama, I started to think about the phrase, “creating creators.”  As part of a reverse exchange through YLAI, I get to travel to Panama, and bring a bit of Dallas, TX, a bit of bit of Big Thought and the work we do to empower youth in marginalized communities.  In the initial phase of the reverse exchange, I befriended Betzy Arosemena while she shadowed the work we do at Big Thought for 5 weeks to learn best practices to take back to Panama.  Now, I get to visit her for two weeks and learn from her.

My mind came back to our charge for this exchange: “creating creators”. What does it mean? How do we do this? What a huge undertaking and responsibility. I’ve always considered myself a creative person and felt comfortable creating in my own sense.

But, how do you teach someone else to be creative, to be the best thinker that they can be, to look at what’s outside the box and figure out how to get there?

That was the challenge I was presented, and I had to figure it out.

I’ve only been at Big Thought for little over a year, and was charged with this task of “creating creators” as part of my everyday job.  I learned that in, our 21st century workforce, creative thinking and emotional intelligence are being recognized as top skill sets that employers are seeking. In an age of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and technology, we have to cultivate creative thinking and emotional intelligence in our youth for them to thrive in a future workforce.

We are coming into a “Createconomy.”

At Big Thought, empowering youth to build their creative muscle, develop social and emotional skills, and shaping their authentic voice are our core elements. Now it’s time to take that work internationally with my friend Betzy. We thought, “What could we do to create creators?  How can we meet the needs of youth in Panama using the skills she learned while shadowing Big Thought?”

That’s when we came up with Festival Napita. Taking a page from our Dallas City of Learning initiative with our Turn Up events. We decided to create a “makers fair” where youth are the creators of their own product and their own business.  Working with a local orphanage and in collaboration with Arckalab and Dandelion Media, we hope to inspire youth and give them the skills necessary to live beyond their life at the orphanage and be the leaders of their Createconomy.

Read Sergio’s Week 2 Experience

Big ThoughtCreating Creators Internationally

Del Barrio al Liderazgo Comunitario

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Más de un billón de niños viven en pobreza en todo el mundo, yo era uno de esos niños. Hija de una madre adolescente y producto de la educación pública en América Central, hoy tengo mi propio negocio y soy considerada una líder en América.

Mi nombre es Betzy Arosemena y nací en Panamá, uno de los países más bonitos y corruptos del mundo. Mi bisabuela no fue a la escuela, no sabía escribir ni leer. Tuvo 7 hijos, el primero lo tuvo a los 15 años. Mi abuela solo terminó 6to grado pues tuvo que trabajar desde los 12 años para ayudar en casa. Mi mamá logró terminar la secundaria pero no hubo celebración, en su último año descubrió que estaba embarazada de mí.

Esto significa que antes de nacer yo formaba parte de estadísticas que decían que mi destino era repetir el mismo patrón de embarazos y pobreza, pero no fue así. Esto se lo debo completamente al apoyo familiar que recibí por parte de mis abuelas, mamá, abuelo, tíos y tías. Todos hicieron lo que pudieron y me repetían casi a diario que si alguien iba a salir del barrio, sería yo.

Hace unos días llegué por primera vez a Dallas y tuve la oportunidad de iniciar una relación profesional con Big Thought, específicamente con Dallas City of Learning. Esta conexión se dio a través del programa de intercambio empresarial Young Leaders of America Initiative, mejor conocido por sus siglas como YLAI.

Este programa busca brindar oportunidades de entrenamiento, recursos y networking a empresarios de toda América Latina, especialmente mujeres. Su objetivo es reducir la división social y económica con prosperidad y crecimiento en el mundo del emprendimiento. Enfocados sobretodo en ideas de negocios que tengan causas sociales, ambientales o relacionadas a derechos humanos.

YLAI Professional Fellows Program es la razón por la que estaré de visita en Dallas. El programa tiene una duración de 5 semanas en donde los 250 participantes visitaremos 3 ciudades de Estados Unidos, en mi caso: Detroit, Dallas y Washington DC. En la primera ciudad, Detroit, conocimos acerca del programa, las expectativas y acerca de los emprendimientos de los otros participantes.

En Dallas es donde estaré la mayor parte del tiempo, compartiendo con Big Thought y con otros 9 maravillosos emprendedores de América Latina: Alberto de México, Alejandra de Honduras, Mark de Aruba, Hugo de El Salvador, Mariana de Uruguay, Fabio y Gabriel de Brasil, Eloisa de Chile y Darwin de Perú.

Todos vienen de industrias muy variadas que incluyen diseño de modas, gastronomía, desarrollo web, mercadeo digital, medios de comunicación, sostenibilidad ambiental, educación, transporte y asesoría legal.

Mi emprendimiento entra en el área de medios digitales, soy la co-fundadora de Dandelion Media una agencia de mercadeo digital en Panamá, pero estoy aquí en partnership con Arckalab, una empresa social dedicada al desarrollo de ciudadanos globales a través de cursos y talleres para niños y adolescentes.

Ahí es donde cobra sentido mi relación con Big Thought. En Arckalab buscamos brindar actividades extracurriculares variadas para que los niños adquieran una nueva forma de pensar, de comportamiento y habilidades que les ayuden a tener su propia empresa cuando sean grandes o simplemente a tener las herramientas necesarias para tener un mejor futuro y poder enfrentarse a una economía global con cualidades resilientes.

Actualmente trabajamos con niños y jóvenes de 8 a 17 años, así que nuestros programas comparten el mismo target que los programas de Big Thought y Dallas City of Learning. También tenemos 3 tipos de programas after school, summer y dentro del horario escolar.

Nuestros talleres atrapan su imaginación e interés con temas muy variados para que los chicos aprendan de todo un poco mientras les enseñamos acerca de cosas que muchas veces no aprenden ni en casa ni en la escuela, como respeto propio y a otros, honestidad, puntualidad, trabajo en equipo, colaboración, ciudadanía global, etc.

A pesar de que vendemos nuestros cursos y talleres a precios accesibles, siempre buscamos la forma de integrar organizaciones con niños que podrían verse beneficiados con este tipo de iniciativas sin costo para la organización. En el 2018 hemos tenido el placer de trabajar con el Hogar de la Medalla Milagrosa y el Club Atlético Independiente, cambiando así la vida de más de 50 niños.

Esto es empoderamiento que está impactando a familias y comunidades enterasen Panamá, así se cambia el mundo empezando por uno mismo. Por eso me involucré tan de cerca con la visión de Abdiel Barranco, Fundador de Arckalab, porque todos merecemos la oportunidad de tener un mejor futuro y dejar a un lado cualquier etiqueta que nos imponga la sociedad. Así que estar aquí representando a Dandelion Media y Arckalab es un honor.

El cierre del programa será en Washington DC, donde volveremos a encontrarnos los 250 participantes y hablaremos de todo lo aprendido y de la experiencia de pasar 5 semanas en Estados Unidos. También habrá una competencia en donde los participantes podrían conseguir algo de dinero para impulsar sus negocios.

En Big Thought he aprendido mucho, y sé que faltan muchas cosas por aprender. Faltan menos de 20 días para que yo termine mi intercambio, hasta ahora todo ha sido genial. He tenido la oportunidad de convivir con personas maravillosas que buscan cambiar el mundo a través de su trabajo y no hay nada más respetable que eso.

Big ThoughtDel Barrio al Liderazgo Comunitario

Summer of Discovery at Trinity River Audubon Center

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By, Elysse Alvarado

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Dallas, the Trinity River Audubon Center is the perfect place to take a pause and enjoy a walk in nature. This summer, Pleasant Grove SOARS and Dallas City of Learning flew into session and sparked students’ imaginations through discovery, play, and creativity all while exploring their own backyard.

Students on a trail at Trinity River Audubon Center.The Trinity River Audubon Center is the gateway to the largest urban forest in the U.S. and sits on a former illegal dump site which has been reclaimed as a nature sanctuary with five miles of walking trails, a butterfly garden, and conservation center. While the center has been open since 2008, many Dallasites don’t know this urban oasis exists.Peek at the home of Pleasant Grove SOARS at Trinity River Audubon Center.

Pleasant Grove SOARS wanted to bring awareness to this amazing facility. Summer learner, Valerie, is eleven years old and loved attending camp at the Trinity River Audubon Center. “I didn’t know this was here. I love nature and every day we take walks and learn about it.” This kind of interactive learning is what Big Thought is all about. Program Manager, Sergio García points out that the goal is not only to “engage the whole child but to engage the whole family by sharing new opportunities and new experiences.” A student’s parent explains that her family has never had the chance to explore this area until SOARS. “The kids love being outside and taking walks. We want to come back as a family now.”

Students took advantage of their time at the center by learning about nature through classes on art, science, and tech. From every corner of the Trinity River Audubon Center, views of the surrounding Texas plains can be seen and as a result, inspired many of the projects students created. From painting butterfly murals to dissecting frogs, learners were able to discover more about their environment through hands-on learning.

Big ThoughtSummer of Discovery at Trinity River Audubon Center

Through the Lens: Community Building at Red Bird

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By, Elysse Alvarado

Walk into Southwest Center Mall (or Red Bird Mall as it’s commonly known) on any given day and it is clear to see that this once burgeoning shopping center has lost its spark. With shuttered storefronts and phantom parking lots, it may seem at first glance that there is not much left for visitors to enjoy. But in fact, this mall has flourished into a unique community of its own.


Apart from the few anchor department stores, local businesses are the pulse of what’s left at the mall and what makes it special. Morning walkers make their rounds through the long shopping halls, while store owners set up for the day ahead. And this summer, Red Bird SOARS has returned to provide engaging, summer programming for students. Summer learners are greeted by shop owners as they walk in for camp and the mall itself serves as the backdrop for activities such as photo walks and dance practice. This shopping mall has become more than just a mall, it has evolved into a close-knit community of its own.

Big ThoughtThrough the Lens: Community Building at Red Bird