When the US$100 million Expo Live plan was rolled out to support life-changing startups in 2017, a portion was devoted to solving the world’s problems through the University Innovation Program.
With its focus on Expo 2020’s three sub themes of opportunity, sustainability and mobility, this caught the attention of two students in the UAE. Abdulmatheen Yousuf, an aeronautical engineering student from Emirates Aviation University, and Hind AlRais, who studied accounting at the American University in Dubai, met while working on another startup project in their senior year. As they saw it, the education system wasn’t keeping up with the fast pace of development and growth. They believed there were two key elements missing from the traditional school system: building emotional intelligence and the opportunity to tackle real-life challenges.
That’s why they founded Project You, a youth-run mentorship and guidance program designed to enhance the school curriculum. The aim was to instill in students entering the workforce what traditional school does not: ethical values, emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills and how to cope when things go wrong.
Since securing an Expo Live grant, Yousuf and AlRais Project You has reached 2,000 students ages 10 to 18, with the majority of participants in Grade 10. Thirty per cent of the students are Emirati, while the rest are a mix of other Arab nationalities and Asians.
Aisha Rawert’s 15-year-old daughter Fatima was a Project You student, with great results.
“Fatima has gained clarity on her purpose and mission in life, has gained valuable new perspectives, created great friendships and radiates positive energy, purpose and impact,” says Rawert.
After the pilot, Project You expanded into offering two different programs: a four-week, 80-hour leadership program called FLIP and Build & Guild, which runs throughout the year. The “Build” portion of Build & Guild is conducted in school and focuses on teaching students new skills, such as grit, perseverance and empathy.
The“Guild” part takes place after school at Project You in Emirates Towers’ Area 2071. There, students are given real-life challenges and asked to understand them from different perspectives before coming up with and implementing solutions. In one example, Noor Dubai challenged a group to create a mobile eye camp in a less developed country.
The goal is always to strengthen each student’s ability to adapt as they move forward, explains Sarah Lafi, a 25-year-old Project You junior program manager from Palestine.
“Soft skills and hard skills should be interlinked, because they are in the real world,” she says. “Our mission is to sync this framework with the school curriculum.”
But it’s not just students who need to be involved, Lafi explains.
“To build a new generation, you need the whole community, you need the teachers and the parents,” she says.
To this end, Project You has created workshops for parents and teachers, too. Next up: new programs that focus on students in their first years of university, along with a one-to-one workshop for parents and their kids.
- Project You’s Build & Gild program is Dh4,380 per year; while FLIP has an early bird program fee of Dh3,640 per year and a regular rate of Dh4,050. To engage or for more information, reach out to [email protected] or call 055 195 2505.