Early this year, the Ontario government of Canada decided to invest $10 million over five years to support young leaders and potential talent in the province. They decided to channel the investment into MaRS, a Toronto-based nonprofit organization supporting innovation, and the money was used to create Studio Y.
Described as Ontario’s “Social Impact and Leadership Academy”, Studio Y was an idea that began in June, and Hamoon Ekhtiari was brought on to lead the project as director.
Ekhtiari explains that the mission is to support young, emerging talent so that they can pursue a life of purpose, realize their full potential, put their ideas into action, and create a better future for both themselves and their communities.
He calls the program an “inflection point”, where young adults can look closely at what they’ve been doing and what they want to do next.
What is Studio Y exactly? Open to youth ages 18 to 29 residing in Ontario, this 8-month residential fellowship program nurtures leaders and change-makers of tomorrow. Participants will spend their time pursuing a personal endeavor that they’re passionate about, working on projects across the province with MaRS as well as its partner organizations, and becoming champions for leaders and change-makers through movement building.
“The program is focused on people who have a couple years of experience but are looking to find a way to amplify the impact they’re having and taking their work to the next level,” said Ekhtiari.
Speaking with Ekhtiari, there’s a sense that such a program is needed. Youth think about their future juggling work to have food to eat and a place to live, and about the ideas and projects they want to pursue. Often there is much going on. Studio Y provides an experience of clarity and growth with coaching, mentorship, space (literally and figuratively), and a $20,000 living stipend.
“At the core, Studio Y is about making the better reality,” said Ekhtiari. He adds that by providing space, youth can look at “where am I at and where do I want to be, and how can I not only realize my full potential for myself but also contribute to building a better society around us.”
Whether an artist, entrepreneur, or scientist, Studio Y seeks three things in participants: character – what’s their story, where do they come from, and what they’ve been working on; contribution – what experience they have in leading and change-making already; and fit – whether they are a fit with the program at this moment.
Interested participants can begin applying online on October 1st for one of 25 spots. Applications close on October 21st and the program will start January 2014.
“Our ultimate focus [is] on how do we do everything we can to support each participant to be able to realize their full potential and go to the next stage in their journey, whatever that stage may be,” said Ekhtiari.
“The program is designed so that you can also choose your own pathway. So you may choose to start your own venture or business, you may choose to go inside an existing organization and work in there to help create change, you may decide to pursue further education.”
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