We are so excited to partner with BUILD as our 1% giving partner! BUILD is a Bay Area-born and based non-profit that provides real-world entrepreneurial experience that empowers youth from under-served communities to excel in education, be leaders in their communities, and succeed professionally. As entrepreneurs, we know how impactful education and mentorship are to achieving our personal and business goals. BUILD is making a huge difference not only in the Bay Area but also across the country–since its founding in 1999, 97% of BUILD’s seniors have graduated from high school and 94% have been accepted into college. This level of success is amazing and inspiring. We are honored to share the incredible story of BUILD’s founding and impact with the Bluebelle community. Check out our conversation with BUILD below:

  1. Tell me about your nonprofit and why it’s special.

BUILD is special because of the students we serve. Our target population is not only considered socio-economically disadvantaged, a majority of our students are also considered academically disengaged – as measured through specific criteria. These combined factors have been proven through studies to make a student highly likely for dropping out of school. Of those that do dropout, about 54% leave school in the ninth grade. BUILD starts in the ninth grade so that we may capture those students before they decide that school holds little value. Our four-year program, through an experiential entrepreneurship curriculum, takes students that may be on the verge of dropping out to being college-eligible and ready to succeed.

  1. What is your mission as an organization?

Though entrepreneurship-based, experiential learning, BUILD ignites the potential of youth from under-resourced communities and equips them for high school, college, and career success.

  1. How and why did this nonprofit get started?

Serving disadvantaged youth has been at the heart of BUILD’s efforts since our organization was founded by attorney Suzanne McKechnie Klahr in 1999. Suzanne was teaching business entrepreneurship as part of a public service fellowship in East Palo Alto, California. One day, four high school boys walked into her office seeking her help. They wanted to start a small business and drop out of high school because they believed that it was no longer relevant. After listening to their plans, she agreed to help them on two conditions. The first was that they stay in school and the second was that they improve academically. Under her guidance, all four students went on to graduate from high school and enter college. This experience inspired Suzanne to found BUILD so that more students can see for themselves their own potential.

  1. Tell us about a recent meaningful experience at BUILD that highlights your work.

Even the most carefully calibrated metrics cannot illustrate the many immeasurable and invisible – yet meaningful – changes BUILD inspires in its students. As such, we have included a story shared at our 2014 Gala by our featured student speaker, and now BUILD Alumnus, Alex:

“In my family, everyone I have ever looked up to has turned to selling drugs as the answer. I am a salesman and entrepreneur, too, but I make a product that helps – not hurts – people. I see how taking risks and taking big bets can lead to success, and how bad choices lead to sadness, anger and destruction. I know now that this will not be my future… BUILD has been my second family, and has motivated me during the hard times. I did not want to let my BUILD family down. I remember coming home and telling my mom I got ‘A’s in school and she responded… “Alex, take out the garbage!” When the BUILD team saw my grades though, I think they cried. I can say that without BUILD, I don’t where I’d be right now. BUILD has really changed my life. BUILD believed in me, before I believed in myself. I am no longer surviving – I am thriving!”

Alex moved our Gala attendees to tears and received a standing ovation. In fact, one funder was so moved by Alex’s story that he offered to pay for his four-year tuition. Alex is now attending his dream school of Santa Clara University.

  1. How can the Bluebelle community contribute to BUILD?

Supporters make our work possible! Annually, we recruit several hundred volunteers to serve as mentors, venture capital advisors, graphic designers and judges. Each volunteer opportunity requires different time commitments. To learn more about our volunteer opportunities, please visit Get Involved webpage.

Each year, we strive to serve more students in the Bay Area and across the nation. We have seen a terrific trend in the Bay Area of at least a 10% growth from year to year. Since we provide our students with completely free resources (such as college tours, SAT and ACT test prep courses, prototype funding, etc.), we look to our supporters to contribute and make our programming possible. To learn about the various ways to donate, please visit: https://www.build.org/donatenow

  1. Do you have any upcoming events or other happenings that you’d like to share with us?

Our 5th Annual Gala is right around the corner! There are various sponsorship opportunities, where guests can see our students in action and hear from our student speaker. To learn more, please visit: http://www.gala.build.org/

  1. How would you explain BUILD in 140 characters?

BUILD uses entrepreneurship-based, experiential learning, to prepare under-resourced youth for high school, college, and career success.

  1. What is your favorite thing about operating your organization in the Bay Area?

The Bay Area is where BUILD started! This is our flagship and largest region. We continue to grow as a national organization, with established sites in Boston and Washington D.C., and soon New York, but have not lost our focus on our first region. The Bay Area keeps expanding its reach to serve even more students every year, while further deepening our impact on the communities and partner schools that we already serve. We expect to keep growing within the Bay Area to ensure that we serve communities that need BUILD the most.

The other wonderful thing about BUILD in the Bay Area is our proximity to Silicon Valley. We have been fortunate in catching the attention of some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the region. Those supporters have turned into long time partners, serving on our Board and as volunteers working directly with our students.


Stay in touch with BUILD!

Website: http://www.build.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BUILD.org

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BUILDNational

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/build1600?feature=mhee