(January 14, 2023) Growing up, student entrepreneur Simone Sharma dreamed of being a doctor. Life, however, had other plans. Along the way, she discovered that volunteer work could boost her CV and increase the odds of getting scholarships to good colleges. Although she wanted to give it a try, she didn’t know where to begin. The hunt for volunteering opportunities, however, sowed the seed for her own non-profit, YouthGrowYouth, which works with youngsters like herself.
Little did she know that in a short span of time, she would be able to reach out to more than 60,000 highschoolers, create a team of volunteers from across the globe and connect youngsters to several opportunities. This successful stint with social entrepreneurship has influenced the seventeen-year-old’s future plans, inspiring her to study business instead of medicine.
Through YouthGrowYouth, Simone has been helping youngsters discover a rich array of extracurricular options, and explore their career interests. The non-profit’s programmes range from helping youngsters with volunteering positions, internships, mentorships, exclusive Ivy League programmes and more.
“YouthGrowYouth has a team of 20 volunteers from India and places like Germany and Canada, who enable global online opportunities,” Simone tells Global Indian.
Recently, the non-profit became affiliated with the United Nations Youth Council and has since expanded to promoting gender equality and mass literacy among vulnerable youth. “The UNYC affiliation has broadened our horizons as we get to be part of regional meetings and interact with board members,” remarks the youngster.
With Simone at the helm, YouthGrowYouth managed to get selected for the Crimson Youth Entrepreneurship Society’s 2022 cohort. “It’s a non-profit accelerator run by Harvard University students dedicated to help young founders create meaningful impacts in their communities and beyond,” tells Simone.
Excited about being part of such a significant cohort, chosen from amongst thousands of applicants, she says, “The selection process went on for three months. By the end of it, only 20 youth-led startups from all over the world were chosen. I am so glad we are one of them.”
The selection comes with the perks of resources for growth. “We are able to access many Harvard webinars, which aren’t otherwise available to the public. We also have access to Harvard-based mentors who groom us to make our startups better,” tells the young social entrepreneur.
Another interesting association has been YouthGowYouth’s selection for the first-ever Google Startup School India edition. Over the course of the nine-week online training programme, the early-stage startup founders were equipped with knowledge, tools and products that any growing organisation needs – all delivered by Google experts and unicorn founders.
The Bengaluru based teen is also one of the 120 participants selected out of 4,000 applicants for the YLC Leadership cum Entrepreneurship Conference. “In an online two-week programme, I was trained in a curriculum developed by Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School and Harvard Graduate School of Education on how to strengthen my organization’s presence,” she says.
Social entrepreneurship, which Simone stumbled onto by chance, is not the only area in which the teenager excels. She has been a runner-up at the National Spelling Bee 2019. She has also tried her hand at pageantry and although she couldn’t earn the top spot in the Star Miss Teen India contest, she managed to earn the Miss Teen India Karnataka 2022 title as one of the finalists. There were other contestants representing the state.
“The contest was held at The Leela Palace, New Delhi. There were accomplished participants from across India. I managed to stand out in the talent round due to my poetry writing skills,” she mentions adding, ‘Though I stammered in nervousness when I was told to recite, losing my shot at winning the title, the days leading to the contest provided a holistic and growing experience for me.”
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Her poems are part of two anthologies published by a publishing house named Writer’s Pocket Publishing. The daughter of an army colonel, Simone is good at sports, and has represented her district and state in basketball tournaments.
“It’s ironic that although I want to pursue business analytics, I am studying science,” smiles the 12th grader of Jain Heritage School. The student entrepreneur aspires to pursue her college education abroad and expand YouthGrowYouth on campus there, to widen its horizons even more.