Two youth in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 were selected from a nationwide search for young innovators to participate in an immersive lab experience at T-Mobile’s headquarters in Bellevue, Wash., during August.
Shrey Pothini and Aaden Spencer, who will be 9th graders at Burnsville High School this year, received in-depth mentorship and skills training with T-Mobile leaders and collaborated with their fellow innovators during the lab. Each team formally pitched a big idea to a panel of T-Mobile senior executives to receive real-time feedback and advice on how to put their plans into action. All winning teams also received a new device and a portion of nearly $60,000 in seed funding from the T-Mobile Foundation.
This all started with Shrey (at right in photo) applying for a grant through T-Mobile and the Ashoka Foundation to create a toolkit that cities around the country can use to create a community-wide day of service, modeled after an event Shrey started in his hometown of Savage.
Over 330 proposals were submitted, and 30 were selected for the experience, which is designed to fast-track world-changing ideas. Shrey was able to select a team member to accompany him, so he chose Aaden.
Shrey’s community involvement began when he was three years old visited a shelter for homeless youth where his mother was volunteering. That prompted him to ask for new bath towels on his birthday instead of presents. Since then, he’s collected over 3,000 towels.
“In third grade, I started a service club in my school (Harriet Bishop Elementary) to teach fellow students about needs in the community to get them passionate about volunteering,” said Shrey. “This year was the sixth year of the club, and we had over 85 students in grades K-5 involved. I have also started clubs in other schools in my district.”
As a sixth grader, Shrey expanded the project to the entire community, and called the youth-led event, "Service Day Saturday." The annual event has involved hundreds of community members of all ages in volunteer service of all kinds.