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The Scarlet & Black

Young Innovators Accept Social Justice Prize: Boris Bulayev and Eric Glustrom

When Eric W. Glustrom founded Educate! in 2002, he already held a strong conviction in the power of education and the potential of youth to bring positive changes in Uganda. Boris Bulayev joined Glustrom to lead Educate! at the beginning of their sophomore year at Amherst College. Since then, the two have partnered for more than seven years to empower Uganda’s youth and train the next generation of leaders for the country.

Educate! started as a scholarship organization for refugees in Uganda in its first five years, while Bulayev and Glustrom were still in college. But the team gradually realized that the education system in Uganda, which focused highly on memorization, was not helping students to make a difference in their community.

“We said, ok, let’s look at how we can change the outcome of the educational system itself. … Education should help the next generation to solve the problems of the community,” Glustrom said.

With such a belief in mind, Glustrom and Boris decided to make a change in the goal and efforts of Educate! after graduating from Amherst in 2007. After two years of intense learning and preparation, Educate! launched its first class for 400 students in February 2009.

This new program focuses on changing the outcome of education through its innovative social entrepreneurship curriculum and long-term mentorship. Students first go through an intensive curriculum of social entrepreneurship for two years. Then they join the alumni program, which helps students to connect to capital and build networks in their community.

Throughout the process, students benefit from their interactions with their mentors. Mentors not only teach practical knowledge of social entrepreneurship, but also help students to overcome difficulties in the challenging start-up process. The ultimate goal of is to encourage students to create their own enterprises and to generate positive changes in their community in the long run.

“It is a life-long engagement with students,” said Glustrom. “We do not have a start day nor an end day.”

Educate! has recently made a big step forward. As the International Labor Organization was funding the government of Uganda to redesign its curriculum, the government asked Educate! to incorporate its social entrepreneurship course into the national education system. It means that the course designed by Educate! will reach 45,000 youth annually and be the first national social entrepreneurship curriculum in the world.

The impressive success was not coincidental. One of the major goals of Educate! after its transition in 2007 was to make its social entrepreneurship curriculum a part of the national education system. The organization made great efforts to collaborate with the government to accomplish its objectives.

“You get very lucky, but you are only able to get lucky because you are prepared. We got very lucky too,” Glustrom said.

Educate! is currently developing a new program to support schools with the new national social entrepreneurship curriculum.

Both Bulayev and Glustrom were excited to receive the award and attend the various events in the Social Justice Prize Symposium. On Wednesday night, they gave a speech to share their stories with the Grinnell community. Bulayev told students to take risks and do what they believe in by recounting his story of quitting the basketball team and joining Educate!. Glustrom shared his “moment of obligation” and encouraged students to “jump into the water.”

In addition to the formal interactions with the Grinnell community, Bulayev and Glustrom immersed themselves in the Grinnell environment by talking to students informally in various occasions, such as the weekly Pub Quiz.

“It’s been so much fun talking to students,” Glustrom said. “Seeing Grinnell’s enthusiasm in social justice is really inspiring. I would encourage students not to take it for granted.”

Bulayev and Glustrom greatly appreciated the Social Justice Prize and the support from the Grinnell community for their work.

“It is really amazing credibility and validation of what we are doing. It is a huge boost to our momentum,” Bulayev said.

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