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Challenge: Back to School 2020

The Rise of Virtual Communities

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During the first shutdown in March 2020, all of us at WIT - Whatever It Takes were concerned about the impact distance learning was having on our tweens and teens. We heard their struggles with increased anxiety and the lack of social interactions with their friends. So, we focused on building a virtual community.

The first version was a virtual summer camp that brought together t(w)eens from around the world. WIT hosted three hours of live content a day. Each 45-minute zoom session focused on one of three topics: physical activity, creativity, or personal development. A variety of entrepreneurs were brought in to lead the sessions. Well-


known Hollywood director Jon Chu stopped by, as well as Top Chef Nyesha Arrington, and many others! We hoped that come Fall everyone would be back in school, but that wasn’t the case. That’s when we created the membership-based community, WIT Community. While the focus of WIT Community was to provide entrepreneurship education, we quickly found out that the t(w)een members needed support in other areas like mental health, managing stress, and finding like-minded peers. WIT started hosting weekly “WIT Hangouts”. The Hangouts provided the opportunity for the t(w)eens to hear from a topic expert and also chat with their peers around the world. Nikhil Rajgopal, a teen entrepreneur and founder of Daily Disinfect, joined WIT Community a few months ago. He shared that he first joined WC in order to get the support to keep his nonprofit running, but since “it has become very difficult to meet new people and stay in touch with friends, WC is making it possible for me to meet new people all across the country!”

While building the WIT Community, I started noticing other virtual communities popping up. Ishani Narwankar, an engineering student at The University of Texas at Austin, built I Kid You Not after she noticed her friends feeling disconnected and discouraged. This virtual community encourages students and young professionals to invest time in personal projects, explore interests and curiosities outside of school/work, and also to pursue life-long learning. I Kid You Not provides monthly virtual workshops, social hours, and other events. It also has a growing discord community to support members as they plan and pursue their personal and

45eb18966932619784be1d36d901e3a7d2551f33.pngprofessional goals. Ishani shared, “people involved have noticed that they feel more motivated to take action and have fun with their personal development and goals to become better versions of themselves.” Pragati Salunke, second year undergraduate student at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, shared that I Kid You Not’s 5 Week Accountability Program helped her get back into a routine after her university’s very abrupt change to online learning, “IKYN’s accountability program guided me to regain that balance and momentum of working on my own non-school related projects.”

CJ Finley, a self-described extrovert and the founder of THRIVE ON LIFE, felt the emotional hit of the first shutdown. Pre-COVID he was in the process of building an in-person event space. He invested his 2020 salary in creating a space where people could connect, learn, and grow together. During the first months of quarantine, he knew that dream had to be built on hold, but he still wanted and needed connection and community. So, his team of interns and local creators built their own virtual


community that provides adults weekly “Lunch & Learns”, podcast episodes, and virtual masterminds. Topics addressed include “How to Handle Stress + Anxiety as an Entrepreneur”, “Effective Public Speaking Tactics,” and there is also a focus on the physical health of their members through workshops on “How To Achieve Optimal Health.” As a result of the success over the last nine months,, the team is building a new website that will support their community by providing more educational content. CJ shared, “The goal in 2021 is to become the premier digital space for any creator or entrepreneur looking to connect and learn from passionate people.”

I find it so inspiring that while many are struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation, virtual spaces are being created that bring people together. I can’t help but think that a silver-lining of 2020 will be all the innovative ways people came together to support one another and build community, even virtually.

Readers -
THRIVE ON LIFE is looking for people to lead Lunch & Learns
WIT is looking for guest speakers
please reach out to to organizations directly

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