When there are strong connections between businesses and schools, students effectively prepare for sustainable careers that they love. There are many examples of these connections happening around the globe and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted new innovative ways for schools and businesses to connect. Here are a few highlights from Sabari Raja, a CEO whose company is innovating to offer summer camps that help parents to keep students engaged as they learn about cool careers.
The world is forever grateful for Sabari Raja, CEO and Co-Founder of Nepris, Inc. whose company has positively impacted over 450,000 students by bringing real-world relevance and digital career exposure into the classroom.
Sabari discussed sociologist Mark Granovetter’s work on the strength of weak ties during her TedTalk this past April. She explained how weak ties diffuse information through the network, which helps learning and development. Weak ties provide access to new ideas that inspire questions, engagement, and a deeper understanding about, in this case, careers and industry. Nepris uses Granovetter’s philosophy to connect students to learning opportunities with experts in fun and engaging ways. This media platform allows educators to work with industry to access subject matter experts that engage with students so they can learn about emerging careers.
Sabari’s innovative solution is fundamentally changing the work-learn ecosystem by providing opportunities for students to discover career opportunities that they may not have known existed. Nepris, Inc. engages with students typically through the classroom experience, but this summer they are offering a new opportunity for home-based engagement to aid families impacted by COVID-19 by offering summer camps. The weak ties developed through these fun learning experiences will inspire and develop camp goers’ career understanding so that they can reach beyond their local environment and circumstances. These engagements inspire hope and a sense of belonging, as we continue to social distance.
Sabari understands the value of stepping out of her comfort zone and connecting with people around the world. She had a choice to stay in her small town in India and to only be influenced by her inherited network, but luckily for the world, she understood the value of connections in helping her to live her best life. Sabari says “I am fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue my passion while creating social impact …success automatically follows when you are doing the things you believe in and giving it your 100%.” She is helping to create a connection to industry beyond the classroom by creating a cultural shift that illustrates the positive social impact that Nepris has on education and student development.
The success that Nepris, Inc is experiencing did not happen overnight. There were many challenges that Sabari faced. She says “After a year of trying to build a product and a market, it didn’t get off the ground. I had to shut it down. It was the most difficult year of my professional career because you start questioning every decision but now that I look back that year is when I learned my most valuable lessons about entrepreneurship that I was able to apply to starting Nepris.”
Sabari feels compelled to engage with other entrepreneurs because she believes they have empathy about how difficult and rewarding entrepreneurship is as a career pathway. She also sees entrepreneurial leadership being infused into schools. Some schools offer the opportunity to use critical thinking to help to solve business problems. Sabari is in support of reimagining education in this way. She believes Cajon Valley Unified (CVU), a K-8 school district in San Diego, “has done a great job of integrating career exposure and real world connections into students’ everyday learning experiences.” Because of their real-world learning framework, CVU quickly developed digital resources for families so they can continue the virtual connection between workforce and education from home during the COVID-19 crisis.
Virtual learning organizations have stepped up to aid traditional schools during the crisis. Sabari indicated that Nepris partners with K12, Inc., and she believes they “…have gone above and beyond” to offer access to all types of experiential learning programs to students across the country.” K12 developed an entire suite of online and blended educational services and curriculum to ensure impactful learning continues at a distance.
It is clear from this research that it is critically important to continue to identify ways that society can reimagine education through digital engagement and the utilization of the strength of weak ties to guide collaboration between businesses and learning environments.