How Do We ‘IGNITE’ Social Change in the Next Generation of Leaders?

The impact of COVID-19 on the education community was astonishing. Educators pivoted all of their curricula to a virtual landscape for the first time. Guardians found themselves supplementing as teachers in addition to working from home. High school students across the country were left free-falling as college and career opportunities became increasingly scarce as the pandemic raged on. There was political and social unrest, a deeply divided nation, and an overall feeling of uncertainty surrounding just about every aspect of our lives. 

Teens hit hardest were those living in low-income communities who came from Black and brown households where they faced extremely challenging hurdles such as a lack of digital resources, familial economic instability and overwhelming and disproportional susceptibility to COVID-19. In this unprecedented time, low-income Black and brown students were falling behind, and their college and career aspirations were put on hold. 

Our team at Prismatic was determined to keep teens on track and inspire hope in our future leaders. Over the summer, we launched a national program called IGNITE during the month of July that was designed for teens ages 14-18 living in low-income communities with a demonstrated passion for social change. As a Chicago-based non-profit, we typically partner with schools throughout our home city to provide programming during the school day or after school. Our new virtual program allowed us to expand our impact, reaching teens in underserved communities throughout the US.

Our tuition-free, online series of workshops strived to help students further their education and community involvement amidst social distancing guidelines. Our teens began to identify their passions and kick-start their personal goals by meeting with trailblazing mentors making a difference in Chicago and beyond.

The program has been very inspiring and I really appreciate that it encourages individualism.

Former IGNITE Student

I really enjoyed this program overall. It gave me assurance to know that other professionals didn’t have a straight step-by-step plan and that it’s OK to not have everything figured out yet. It also helped me become more mindful in looking after myself and finding a way to pursue my mission.

Amanda, Former IGNITE Student

I learned a lot about myself and how I can use my strengths as a benefit in my everyday life and in my career. I learned so much from all the guest speakers and feel reassured. Everything that is meant for me in the future will happen at the right time.

Emily, Former IGNITE Student

Coming off of a successful summer program, we looked to the upcoming school year. “After we experienced a 100% retention rate in our summer program and no signs of the end of the pandemic insight, we knew we had to identify a creative way to continue to help low-income students during the school year,” explains Debra Giunta, Prismatic’s Founder and recent Crain’s Chicago Notable Entrepreneur

Our IGNITE fall cohort has attracted students from all over the country from states like Washington, Illinois, New York, Georgia, and Massachusetts with ambitious dreams and aspirations of bettering not only themselves but their communities at large.

I am very interested in how I can impact my community and how I can help become more of an advocate for mental health and other important topics, such as racial equality, gender equality and supporting the LGBTQ+ community. I have many goals and ideas about my future, and I’m very conflicted on which field I should go into.

Sera, Current IGNITE Student

In the next 10 years, I would like to see my neighborhood have adequate health insurance since almost everyone is uninsured because of their immigration status. I personally want to teach financial literacy courses and workshops to people in my community.

George, Current IGNITE Student

After the recent events of BLM, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the presidential election, it has motivated me to contribute to and learn more about my community and the world around me to make it a better place in the future and for all citizens of America.

Amelia, Current IGNITE Student

At the core of IGNITE is a robust blend of social-emotional learning (SEL) exercises and concrete career development guided by the expertise of the Prismatic team and our growing roster of insightful volunteer mentors. We put the focus on SEL because the research shows that Emotional Quotient (EQ) is 400% more powerful than IQ when predicting who would have success in their field. 71% of hiring managers say they valued an employee’s EQ over their IQ and 90% of high-performers had high EQs and earned on average $29,000 more per year.

The dynamic features of IGNITE allow us to bring virtual, high-quality programming to all students, regardless of their economic status and from the safety of their own homes. Our career-defining programming is tuition-free for teens and 100% funded through the generosity of those who understand the importance of uplifting teens from the most vulnerable communities.

If we want to ensure our young people have the opportunities they deserve, we must invest in their education today.

To learn more about Prismatic’s IGNITE program and how we’re helping teens across the nation, visit

By: Amanda Diiulis
Title: How Do We ‘IGNITE’ Social Change in the Next Generation of Leaders?
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Published Date: Tue, 26 Jan 2021 00:02:53 +0000

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