Disadvantaged college students in the State of Massachusetts, in the North East of the United States, have problems completing their secondary school studies, a situation that jeopardizes their search for employment. In 2010, two experienced entrepreneurs decided to offer their professional expertise to young people by founding The Possible Project (TPP). “Nothing is impossible” became their new watchword. This mindset was presented to us by Brenda Sanchez, the TPP Vice President of Development and Communications.
Air Liquide Foundation: How did The Possible Project emerge?
Brenda Sanchez: The initiative originated from Mark and Becky Levin. TPP was their dream: the project offers young people from disadvantaged backgrounds a place where they can unleash their potential, become entrepreneurs and develop personal and professional skills enabling them to set a constructive career plan. Becky brings three decades of business experience to the role of Executive Director as well as a strong background in nonprofit philanthropy. Her method: making a success of entrepreneurship and using optimism as a key to success.
Air Liquide Foundation: Is this mindset practiced on a daily basis?
Brenda Sanchez: Yes, from their entry to the project, we instill our values in the young people: respect, teamwork, resilience, integrity and humor! This helps them to learn to never become demoralized, to always find a solution and to remain enthusiastic. Thanks to the trust that they gain during the final years spent within the TPP, they become ready to explore all of the opportunities that they are offered. It’s a mindset that I share: I personally came from a less than comfortable background and it allowed me to grow up and flourish thanks to the determination to do something about my situation that was instilled in me by my mother and that I wish to convey today!
Air Liquide Foundation: In practical terms, how do you support the young people?
Brenda Sanchez: The program is held over the last three years at college. It comprises both a practical component as well as a social component: developing good manners to facilitate working in a collaborative manner. The students learn the basic concepts associated with entrepreneurship – marketing, sales, quality control, etc. We explain to them how to develop an idea, how to make it work and how to disseminate it. We believe that the best way for young people to learn is through experience and by providing them with a space – the Makerspace – within which they can benefit from high-tech equipment required for manufacturing products. In addition, the foundation financed the purchase of a laser-cutting machine and a cutting table that will be used for manufacturing prototypes.
Air Liquide Foundation: How would you assess the first 7 years of the TPP?
Brenda Sanchez: The association has already trained 600 children and has achieved incredible results: almost 100% achieved their secondary school diplomas, almost the same number were accepted at good universities and 250 new businesses have been set up … However we aim for the long term and hope to be able to bring this program to other disadvantaged communities in the United States and throughout the world. Everything is possible!