T-Mobile is still on cloud nine after the February finale of the 2019 Changemaker Challenge. It was just a couple weeks ago when 30 teams of young social entrepreneurs from around the country gathered at T-Mobile headquarters to workshop their world-changing ideas with their peers and T-Mobile employees. The event was truly inspiring. And though each of those 30 teams has been highlighted previously, there is another grand-prize-winning team who deserves attention.
As with all contests run by T-Mobile-and any major corporation-company employees and their families are not permitted to participate in the Changemaker Challenge. But plenty of T-Mobile-related youth are working hard to improve their communities, so for the past two years we've hosted a second, internal competition called the T-Mobile Family Challenge.
This year, T-Mobile, the T-Mobile Foundation and Ashoka hosted the second annual T-Mobile Family Challenge – teams were selected from a group of applicants related to current employees and brought to HQ for the Changemaker finale. One team, The Tomorrow Project took home $2,000 in seed funding as well as priceless advice on how to bring their projects to the next level. The Grand Prize winning team, Legally Ours, picked up an additional $8,000 in seed funding (for $10,000 total) plus a return trip to T-Mobile HQ and a year of support, advocacy and advice from T-Mobile.
To learn more about Legally Ours and their innovative project, we spoke with the team’s founder, Sneha Durairaj of Bellevue, WA.
Tell us a little about yourself and your project.
Legally Ours exposes middle school students to the legal field while promoting community involvement and building their communication skills. We aren't too far from T-Mobile headquarters in Bellevue.
Personally, I'm pursuing a simultaneous BS in Corporate Finance and Accounting and an MS in Finance at Bentley University in Waltham, MA. I plan on attending law school after graduation before working as a corporate lawyer.
Who in your family is a T-Mobile employee, and who or what inspired you to apply to the T-Mobile Family Challenge?
Behind every good entrepreneur is a great mother. My mom, Anjana Annarajan, has been working at T-Mobile for several years now and she's never failed to consistently support me in my endeavors, encourage me at every step and challenge me to achieve my aspirations. Without her, I would never have been able to reach for lofty goals, let alone found Legally Ours and apply for the Changemaker Challenge.
Can you describe Legally Ours? What kind of change do you want to create?
Legally Ours provides middle schoolers with the valuable professional skills they will need for any career while exposing them to a specific one they might not have much experience with: law. We use the guiding spirit of the legal profession to educate youth and equip them with the important tools of communication, persuasion and career development. Legally Ours seeks to not only build the better lawyers of the future, but to build changemakers across every occupation.
What inspired your idea, and what makes it unique?
My idea was inspired as a result of the shortcoming of the education system to adequately prepare youth for their future. Middle schoolers are often overlooked, not only in terms of their potential to grasp complex career-oriented concepts, but to be involved in and to make a change in their communities. Legally Ours simply provides them with that exposure through the unique lens of law, the very foundation of every society.
What was the biggest challenge you've experienced in building your program? How did you solve it?
The biggest challenge Legally Ours has faced is acceptance from academic institutions. Middle school administrations are often unwilling to offer external programs or trust college students with running them. We work to resolve these hurdles by illustrating our capabilities as an organization and as a team of hardworking, motivated individuals through the presentation of documents such as detailed lesson plans and thoughtful curriculum.
Any advice for other hopeful entrepreneurs?
My advice would be to set high goals for yourself in every aspect of your life. There's no such thing as too much ambition or too much hard work to achieve your goals. It's important to go through every day ending your sentences with "I will" instead of "I want to." Believing is the first step to succeeding.
For more information on T-Mobile Changemaker Challenge or to see all the winning teams, visit T-Mobile.com/Changemaker.