Today we’d like to introduce you to Angela Wang, Alyssa Nie and Pranav Pattatathunaduvil.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In 2017, five high school students from Plano, TX, wanted to use their passion for Speech and Debate as a means of making a meaningful difference in their community and bettering the lives of underserved children. They started Be the Light Youth Association, a completely student-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers Speech and Debate classes to students in the community in order to raise money for local nonprofit organizations that support underprivileged children and families. Every year, three seasonal workshops were held for students on Sunday mornings. In three years, eight workshops have been held and more than 400 students have been taught.
As a result of recruitment and leadership restructuring, the size of the leadership and instructor team has grown by 500%. With online classes, our students are now from five states around the country.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
One particularly big struggle for the organization was first starting it off the ground. An operation like ours hosting so many classes for students and being completely student-run had not been undertaken before in our community. With no precedent to follow, the organization’s success relied on strong team cohesion and a lot of working through situations as they arose. Through the years, hearing feedback from the kids and instructors have helped us improve our classes for students. Additionally, COVID-19 forcing the cancellation of our in-person classes in the middle of one of our semesters was difficult. We were forced to immediately transition to a fully online platform, which had its own issues involved.
Please tell us about Be the Light Youth Association.
We offer Speech and Debate classes in order to raise money for organizations supporting disadvantaged youth. What sets us apart is that 1) we are a completely student-run operation, and 2) our low-cost Speech and Debate classes are taught by some of the best Speech and Debate competitors in the nation, including multiple nationally-recognized instructors such as two current national and state champions. We also maintain a low student to teacher ratio of 1:6.
We are particularly proud of the impact we’ve been able to have on the community. In just three years, Be the Light has raised over $100,000. Recent donations during the COVID-19 pandemic have provided more than 10,000 meals for food banks, over 40,000 diapers for homeless children, allowed a child care center supporting 60 low-income children to remain open, and provided 50 full months of therapy for disabled children. Be the Light recently held a book drive in the community, collecting 2,672 test prep and reading books in two weeks to be donated to low-income students, providing them with educational materials for at-home learning.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Our big future plans for the organization include: 1) offering free classes to low-income and disadvantaged children in our community, 2) expanding our online classes to students from states around the country, and 3) opening more Be the Light branches around the country for them to hold their own classes.
- One courses: $165, Two courses: $310
- Website: bethelightyouth.org
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/bethelightyouth/
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/bethelightyouth