David Corbin, then a senior at American Heritage School in Boca Raton, Fla., returned from a five-week summer program at UF a different person. The program, Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership & Sustainability (YELS), made him determined to be a “change-maker.”
When Corbin (BS ’15, MSRE ’16) heard about a woman who wanted someone to take over her non-profit, which she started to help kids in Uganda, he was immediately interested.
“When we were in Dr. Joos’s class, we were taught to see problems as opportunities and challenged to come up with innovation and sustainable solutions to them” said Corbin, referring to YELS Director Dr. Kristin Joos’s Social Problems & Solutions class “We saw a problem. There were people dying of dirty water in a country far away and we were living this comfortable life.”
So Corbin recruited a group of young leaders from his high school and officially launched the non-profit 4Uganda.
“It was a bunch of kids just trying to do something good,” he said.
At YELS, high school students are taught entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship and sustainability while living on the UF campus. They earn six hours of college credit while serving the community and interacting with like-minded students, Joos said.
“YELS gives high school students an immersive experience that teaches them the skills, strategies, mindsets, and competencies of successful entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, and leaders,” she said.
Joos said about 1 in 3 YELS alumni create their own venture within a year of finishing the program.
“They leave YELS inspired and empowered to change the world,” Joos said.
Corbin and his partners raised nearly $250,000 in less than a year, providing clean water and medical care to the village of Myende Landing. Corbin, now a graduate student in the Hough Graduate School of Business’s Nathan S. Collier Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) Program, and his team hosted functions at art galleries, and cocktail receptions at the homes of successful professionals in South Florida to raise funds.
“I thought of it as the most important sales experience you could get,” Corbin said.
They partnered with a local private industry professional who donated $50,000 and did all the overseas contracting work. The work resulted in 18 water filtration systems on Lake Victoria which provides clean water to a population of 90,000. Construction on a medical clinic has also been completed.
Corbin said the most challenging part of launching 4Uganda was “just getting started.”
“You can have all the ideas in the world,” Corbin said. “You can have the motivation. But taking those, first steps and saying I’m going to commit myself to solving this is always the most difficult part.”
Corbin has since handed off leadership of 4Uganda, and is applying the lessons he learned from YELS. He is creating a digital platform for real estate professionals to make their transactions more efficient.
“I saw a problem and now I’m creating a solution,” Corbin said. “We’re going to go after it. What’s the worst thing that could happen? We fail?
“My story isn’t any different from a lot of other kids I know. Every year 40 new kids come out [of YELS] changed. They see the world differently. They value the world differently. They value their own experience differently. They value their friends’ experiences differently. They see everything.”
Corbin said YELS changed his life, fostering in him a spirit of awareness toward his surroundings and an ability to see opportunities to solve problems.
“Without YELS, I would have never, been aware to step up and make a difference,” he said. “Because, that’s the whole thing: Don’t let someone else do it. You can do it.”