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An interview with She Started It director, Nora Poggi

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In 2018, Veritas is sponsoring the adoption of the She Started It academic program in classrooms – a collection of hands-on, project-based courses accompanying the She Started It documentary, developed to empower young women in grades 6 through 9 to seek entrepreneurial opportunities.

In promotion of Veritas' partnership with She Started It, I interviewed documentary co-director and program leader, Nora Poggi, for insight to the film's motivating message and resulting educational program created with Reinvent Ed.

You co-directed She Started It with Insiyah Saeed. What influenced you two to capture and share the entrepreneurial experiences of the women you showcase in the documentary?

Throughout the production process, the number one goal was to inspire and empower women of all ages, but specifically young girls, as the tech and leadership gap starts very early on. We made the film with this educational impact piece in mind, and the curriculum is the natural extension of the film, which has now shown at 400 events in over 25 countries – a lot of places being high schools and universities.

A quote by Reshma Saujani, the Founder of Girls Who Code and TED speaker, really summarizes why this is important: “We’re teaching girls to be perfect rather than brave.”

The young women we filmed over 2 years in the film all have in common the grit, persistence, and resilience of the entrepreneurial spirit – that's what we wanted to showcase for women and girls. Startups are not easy, but it's worth trying something you are passionate about, and failing is just part of the process.

That quote can be seen clearly in everything you’ve accomplished with She Started It. How did you decide to move from film to hands-on educational support?

As the documentary was gaining acclaim, Insiyah and I met the team at ReinventED Lab, who built the curriculum with us. We also met terrific teachers such as Kim Wilkens, Stephanie Passman, Chad Ratliff, and former super-intendant Pam Moran in Charlottesville, Virginia. That community is really innovative when it comes to education, and they all at different times in 2016 and 2017 used our film and went beyond to create entrepreneurial workshops for their students, which is exactly what we wanted the film to be used for.

Through them we met Keaton Wadsinski, founder of the non-profit ReinventED, who is similarly dedicated to encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit among youth so that team was the perfect partner to help build the She Started It curriculum.

We connected with this community thanks to our Executive Producer, Ted Dintersmith, who is a fierce leader of education reform. He is behind the film, Most Likely To Succeed, and even has a book on the subject titled, What School Could Be. So from the inception of the film to its distribution now in classrooms, it was all an organic process of people coming together who shared a similar vision that school can and should be a place for everyone, especially girls, to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, learn about innovation, resilience, and develop skills that will serve them better in the 21st century.

Please, share some details on the She Started It classroom experience.

The curriculum is hands-on, project-based and focused on six lesson plans that teachers can choose to use and modify to fit their needs – we knew it had to be flexible and light for teachers who are incredibly busy. The six lessons end with the culmination of a pitch session by the students in front of the class, so they get to practice entrepreneurship, which we believe is the best way to learn.

The program is also about raising awareness on the gender gap in entrepreneurship and improve girls’ visibility to career options and leadership options, that promote perseverance and resilience. We want more young women to be able to envision their futures and believe in their potential.

And we believe She Started It is a place to start.

Those of us at on #TeamVtas could not agree more. We want to be a part of this conversation, promoting female-focused efforts like the She Started It program in local schools. We’ll also be hosting showings of the documentary among our Future Women in Leadership and Women at Veritas Empowered groups, as well as seeking additional opportunities to integrate this compelling charge in the ongoing philanthropic work of teams across Veritas’ global offices.

Additional details on She Started It – including donation, partnership, and sponsorship opportunities – can be found at the organization's website.

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