The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute’s Lassonde Ambassador and Mentor Program launched in 2014 as a University of Utah, student-run initiative to help high school students explore access to higher education and opportunities related to innovation, entrepreneurship, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
Since then, the program has more than achieved its mission and exceeded expectations. It has worked with 33 schools, hosting 1,180 events, engaging 54,088 students, and awarded 113 scholarships totaling $275,000.
None of this would be possible without the support of the James A. Unruh Family Foundation, which has sponsored the program since the beginning.
“The outcomes these Ambassadors have achieved have had real impact, and it is inspirational to watch the leadership from the group in the desire to give back and create transformational opportunities within the communities they reach and themselves,” said Jeff and Polly Unruh. “The program has been an excellent fit with our foundation, seeding programs for youth that we hope others join and help flourish.”
The program’s reach also would not be possible without the University of Utah student Ambassadors behind it. They come from diverse backgrounds and guide the program’s many outreach efforts, which include classroom presentations, workshops, class visits, innovation tournaments, tours and field trips, service projects, tabling events, and more. The Ambassadors also encourage students to participate in the High School Utah Entrepreneur Challenge to experience what it’s like to pursue their ideas, gain support, and explore access to high education.
Daren Thai knows these activities first-hand. He is the student co-chair for the program during the 2021-22 academic year and a business student at the University of Utah.
“The Ambassador Program allows me to provide the mentorship and guidance that I would have liked as a high school student,” Thai said. “It means a lot to me knowing that I am in the fortunate position to help others get to the next step in their life.”
While high school students receive encouragement through the Lassonde Ambassador and Mentor Program, the student leaders also gain a transformative a learning experience.
“The two most notable things I’ve learned from my experience as a Lassonde Ambassador are how to better lead and inspire a team, and how to utilize the power of a team to accomplish great things,” Thai said. “The Ambassador Program is very collaborative, and teams and leaders must work together to be successful. Leading a team takes a lot – vision, inspiration, guidance, trust, among many other things. It’s been a great journey developing these leadership aspects and translating them to my team.”
Stephanie Gladwin-Park had similar things to say about the program. A former Lassonde Ambassador, she received a bachelor’s degree in international students from the University of Utah in 2017. She is now a teacher at American Form High School.
She said, “The Ambassador Program encourages people from all degrees and backgrounds to pursue not only entrepreneurial endeavors but also encourages them to look at issues in our community and think creatively about how anyone, not just entrepreneurs, can be a force for positive change.”
Both Thai and Gladwin-Park hope the Lassonde Ambassador and Mentor Program can continue to have an impact on both high school students in Utah and the student Ambassadors.
“The Ambassador Program has such a high potential to be the number one resource for high school students considering higher education,” Thai said. “With passionate Ambassadors, a large network of high schools, and numerous college readiness resources, this program could be the key difference in getting underprivileged high school students in Utah thinking about their future and how college can play a crucial, yet accessible role in that future.”
All high schools in Utah are welcome to request an Ambassador to engage their students at their school, virtually, or at the University of Utah. Anyone interested is encouraged to contact Anne Bastien, a staff director at the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, at email@example.com or 801-585-3198.
“We look forward to working with many more students across Utah,” Bastien said. “We strive to meet as many as we can and help them explore opportunities to advance to a college or university and to pursue their dreams. We want all high school students to see how much potential they have and how they can make the most of it.”
Are you a University of Utah student and want to be a Lassonde Ambassador and receive a scholarship to fulfill the program’s mission? Apply on the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute website at lassonde.utah.edu/leadership.
Learn more about the Lassonde Ambassador and Mentor Program at lassonde.utah.edu/lassonde-ambassadors.