Vianka Curiel dreamed to work at the United Nations one day, but found her shyness and lack of business knowledge blocked the path to her goal. She discovered the confidence and business skills she needed in the Future Builders Program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business.
“I've never really had the best confidence. After doing the program, my leadership skills have definitely grown a lot. I now have a better ability to see other people's perspectives and understanding their own take,” said the Lincoln Pius X sophomore.
Once she attended the Future Builders Kickoff earlier this spring, Curiel knew the program suited her needs. With the people she met there, along with students from her school who she never previously spoke to, she stepped out of her comfort zone to connect with others.
“I started talking to the people who went to my school, which immediately made me feel better. Then I decided, ‘Okay, I'm going to try and talk to everybody else. Before that, I didn't really know how to talk to people at times,” she said.
Hosted through a partnership between the Clifton Strengths Institute, Lincoln Public Schools and Prosper Lincoln, the week-long program led her and 11 other high school students through the process of starting a business and learning about their individual strengths. Throughout the week, the students worked with mentors from the local business community. Curiel connected with Randy Hawthorne, executive director and publisher of Nonprofit Hub, whose words resonated with her as he showed her a new avenue of business.
“We visited Randy at The Foundry and he talked about this nonprofit idea. I hooked onto it. I didn't know this was an actual thing because I always thought every business had to be profitable and make money. I was interested and thought, ‘Maybe I'll talk to my own teammates about doing something similar,’” she said.
Curiel brought her idea to the other builders and together they built out an idea called Prekrate based around her own personal life experience. Prekrate assists underprivileged families with resources to help prepare their children for school with educational material. Curiel hoped the idea would help prevent situations similar to her own growing up.
“When I was growing up, I didn't have a lot of things to prepare myself with, especially in school. Going into kindergarten, I was completely unprepared. I didn't have workbooks or anything to help me out, so it was a big challenge,” she explained.
Hawthorne, who co-founded Nonprofit Hub, witnesses firsthand every day the interest students show in having direct impact through their work. He believes in showing how the nonprofit sector can be a viable career path and offer purpose and skills to further a career.
“As young people are making positive change in all industries, this is an exciting time for positive change in how nonprofits operate as leadership transitions transform the sector,” he explained.
As a mentor for the students, he witnessed Curiel, along with the 11 other students, evolve and grow over the week. Being a local business leader, he noted the importance of programs such as the Future Builders.
“I appreciate Vianka's journey story. Watching her grow from that to then even more just in the course of a few days, she really emerged as a leader of the group, which was astounding to witness. It's awesome when a program can have such an effect on someone,” said Hawthorne. “These students put themselves among an elite group who have raised their hand to learn and to build their social capital, which is so important.”
Curiel returns to high school looking to the future with a new outlook on herself and the world of business. Her high ambitions of someday working in the United Nations appear more attainable than ever.
“This whole entire program helped me out a lot. It made me see that I do have a voice and I can be very confident if I really want to be,” she said.
Sponsors of the program included: Accelerate Nebraska; Ameritas Life Insurance; Assurity Life Insurance; Bill Cintani; Don’t Panic Labs; Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools; Gallup; Lincoln Community Foundation; Lincoln Industries; Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development; Nelnet; Pixel Bakery; Prosper Lincoln; Spreetail; The Jim and Penny Krieger Family Foundation; and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
To learn more about the Clifton Strengths Institute, visit: https://business.unl.edu/strengths