“In order for Kansas City to become the most entrepreneurial city in America, we must first transform education to produce innovative thinkers.”

I had the amazing opportunity to serve as a judge in yesterday’s MECA Challenge sponsored by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City. In short, the MECA Challenge provides opportunities for high school and college students to learn about entrepreneurship. The mission is pretty well captured in the quote above, which comes from the MECA Challenge website.

Yesterday’s challenge involved about 100 high school students who were divided into 12 teams. Each team was challenged with coming up with ideas on how BBBSKC can better promote its ACES program, which helps high school students prepare for college and their eventual careers.

What I learned as a judge

I’ve seen hundreds of startup pitches over the years and these young students did an outstanding job. They stood in front of their peers and presented the problem, their solution, and how it would work.

What surprised me the most is that most of them were more interested in fostering in-person relationships rather than relying on technology. It is often assumed that young kids prefer to engage with technology more than with other people, but that obviously wasn’t the case for these kids.

The winning team’s idea advocated for high schools to create student-lead groups which would focus on college preparation and how the ACES program could help them. More specifically, each student-lead group would receive coaching from recent high school graduates who benefited from the ACES program. In this way, the students could help one another and get advice from people closer to their own age.

My other big take away from the event is that Kansas City’s future looks bright. These kids were learning how to approach problems from different viewpoints, how to find innovative solutions, and how to ensure their solutions were viable.

These kids will certainly be the leaders in our community in the not too distant future.

Want to get involved?

I’d encourage you (and your company) to check out mecachallenge.com to learn more about the organization and to learn how you can get involved.

Image: Chris Brown

*This article is very general in nature and does not constitute legal advice.