This spring, BCIL Speaker Series on both campuses have given students opportunities to hear inspiring stories from individuals making real world change in their communities.
Fifth graders heard from Miry Whitehill, founder of Miry’s List, an organization dedicated to welcoming families who are settling in the United States as refugees. In collaboration with the Service Learning Department and homeroom teachers, the BCIL is working with 5th graders to design a passion project around forming a nonprofit organization. Students have selected a range of topics such as environmental awareness, antiracism, and animal rights to research and brainstorm mission statements and solutions to advancing their cause. Miry spoke to the students about her own path to forming a nonprofit organization, and advised the students that the two ingredients are a challenge that needs to be solved, and an interest in a community to help solve it. For the live challenge, students wrote welcome letters to families resettling in the United States after hearing from Miry about the strength and resilience required to leave one's home and create a new life in another country.
Fourth graders had special guest speakers from Brentwood’s own community—Eric G. ‘26 and JoJo F. ‘26—who shared about their own journey in founding the Circuit Shower. After winning the entire East Campus Innovation Challenge last year as 7th graders for their innovative idea to purify and reuse water from showers, Eric and JoJo have continued to build out their prototype and business plan through an independent study with the BCIL Entrepreneurship Coordinator, Mr. Chien. In anticipation of the Shark Tank unit in which 4th graders will design and pitch their own original products, Eric and JoJo introduced students to what they have named the “Chien Scale” in honor of Mr. Chien. This scale encourages students to evaluate potential ideas based on three factors: interest, impact, and attainability. Eric and JoJo then introduced a live challenge that they designed themselves that included four potential business ideas and had the students rate each idea based on the Chien Scale and share their ratings out with the group. It was a lively and fun event for all involved, and especially exciting to see younger students be inspired by inventors in our own community!
On the East Campus, Derek Smith joined us prior to Spring Break for a Speaker Series focused on launching a startup. Mr. Smith specializes in digital media trends. He has consulted with some of the world’s most prominent brands, including the NBA, Nestle, Dove, Ritz Crackers, and Microsoft Advertising. His experience and passion for entrepreneurship led him to found Plug in South LA, an accelerator for Black and Latinx founders. Plug in South LA seeks to redefine the narrative around entrepreneurship and mark South LA as a center of creativity and innovation. Speaking to our students, Mr. Smith highlighted the importance of working with teams and joining collaborative experiences to help prepare for the world of business. In the live challenge, Mr. Smith had students simulate the hiring of a Product Manager for a growing company that is hoping to have a global impact. In teams, students reviewed three resumes and discussed each candidates’ strengths and growth areas before making a recommendation on who to hire. It was fascinating to see the various responses in the room as each team had compelling reasons for selecting their candidate, and there was much disagreement! Students were able to see in action the many factors that might influence one candidate standing out over others, and also hear from Mr. Smith that the decisions you make when building your team are some of the most difficult and significant when starting a company.
Below are some reflections from students who attended these events:
"I thought [Miry's] work has great meaning and it’s a great cause. I can tell she’s so nice and can work with all ages. I felt like I could connect with other families that are going through today what my family went through in the past.” —Nina N. ’29
"It was really fun! Eric and JoJo did an amazing job building a prototype that could potentially help the environment in many ways. It even inspired me to do another project around the Global Goals with a friend outside of school." —Levi S. ’30
“I liked when Mr. Smith gave advice to us about important skills to start your own business as an entrepreneur, like being able to collaborate, use others' ideas, and work together with a team to improve your idea/business proposal.” —East Campus Student