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BCIL in Action: A Look Back at the Inaugural Year
Dr. Josh Berger, Director of the Belldegrun Center for Innovative Leadership

It was an extremely exciting first year for our Belldegrun Center for Innovative Leadership (BCIL) whose mission is to “prepare community members to engage with real world challenges and explore solutions within and beyond the classroom.” Through our BCIL programming, students followed their curiosity beyond the textbook, grappled with questions for which there are no prescribed answers, and developed lifelong leadership skills.

Some of our extracurricular highlights included our participating as the only high school in UCLA’s “Impactathon,” an Anderson School of Business event that unites students and professionals to drive social and environmental change. Two of our juniors helped their team win a $1,000 for their work developing an efficient home cooling system that saves energy and costs one tenth the amount of a whole house fan.

The Impactathon inspired the development of our own inaugural Middle School Entrepreneurship Pitch Challenge revolving around the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The contests were evaluated by professional entrepreneurs and connected to innovative leadership curricular projects such as our 7th Grade Global Studies Human Rights’ Day and our endangered species “Shark Tank” pitches in science classes.

This year BCIL also sponsored the LA Teen Hackathon where students used technology, marketing, and design thinking to solve real world challenges. Brentwood had more 6th through 12th Grade students participate than any other Los Angeles school, and our Upper School participants swept virtually every award. 

Participants ask questions and dive into their challenge at the LA Teen Hackathon event on March 16, 2019.

Keeping with the theme of exploring solutions to real world challenges, we launched our first BCIL Speaker Series on both campuses, welcoming distinguished alumni from government and businesses focused on topics ranging from Innovative Leadership in Green Tech to Social Equity through Urban Development. Our alumni speakers subsequently sponsored our first Challenge of the Month contests revolving around current challenges facing their businesses or organizations. This year’s contest winners traveled to Fremont to tour the Tesla factory and meet with their Head of Automotive, and to San Francisco’s City Hall pitching ideas to Mayoral staff and visiting surrounding neighborhoods. 

Alumni Raven Morgan '14 and Theodore Riley '95 engage students in a brainstorm about building inclusive cities of the future at the second BCIL Speaker Series event on March 14, 2019.

On the curricular side, each division had BCIL projects woven into the curriculum such as the Lower School Innovative Design Project through which students created new products from reusable waste materials. In the Upper School a new set of BCIL-designated courses are launching next year such as Advanced Entrepreneurship, Documentary Filmmaking for Social Change, Fabrication & Design, Latinx in Los Angeles, Science of Well-Being, and Sustainable Earth Engineering.

Summer at Brentwood also offers unique BCIL opportunities in every division with a few highlights including Global Health, an Upper School elective co-taught by a USC Medical Professor that  included a Panama trip to deliver health services, a Middle School Entrepreneurship Institute, and a Design with Purpose course through which students used design thinking to build customized toy cars so children with limited mobility could drive them. 

Lastly, our Belldegrun Center for Innovative Leadership offered exceptional professional development opportunities for our K-12 faculty. One of this year’s highlights included colleagues participating in Stanford’s Design Thinking Workshop and then leading a similar program for our entire faculty and staff during inservice. 

A huge thank you to our BCIL Collaborative team, and our student, faculty, and administrative leaders who helped bring the BCIL to life in such a short period of time this year.

Top Photo: Summer at Brentwood offered up a number of BCIL designated classes including Design with Purpose, a weeklong Middle School experience in empathy and engineering creating modified ride-on cars for children with limited mobility. Teaming up with GoBabyGo!, UCLA Children's Hospital, and Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Middle Schoolers used design thinking, collaboration, and communication skills to create custom toy cars for children with specific needs. The week culminated with the children receiving their cars at a special event with their parents and new friends.

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