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This summer, the big P-word at Positive Tracks was “Paganucci.” A group of five Dartmouth College students did a deep dive into Positive Tracks through the Paganucci Fellows Program. The eight-week program, run through Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, offers select Dartmouth undergraduates an intensive education in global experiential learning, personal leadership development, and social entrepreneurship. Paganucci Fellows explore ways in which businesses can create positive social and financial value, referred to as the “double bottom line.”

Double positive impact? We’re totally in! And so were Kelly Chen, Bobby Crawford, Steffen Eriksen, Kelly Moore and Alexa Sonnenfeld—the 2016 Paganucci Fellows.

The mission for this group of young adults was, quite fittingly, aimed at developing strategies to grow and evaluate Positive Tracks’ new U23 Challenges Program. The program helps U23s (under age 23) sweat for good via charitable athletic efforts they build themselves with Positive Tracks’ hands on help and support. Specifically, the Paganucci Fellows sought to strengthen and evaluate the program, in addition to guiding the creation of a digital platform used for Positive Tracks’ curriculum and tools delivery.

The group, most of whom barely knew each other when they first convened in June, immediately set about learning everything they could—water from a firehouse style—not only about Positive Tracks, but about the space and communities shared by active youth and philanthropy.

“We looked at a lot of nonprofits that taught kids about healthy living or giving back to community,” explains Bobby Crawford. “But as deep a dive as we did, we didn’t see any others like Positive Tracks, that do both.”

Fellows gathered data and interviews from more than 55 sources—from youth involved with Positive Tracks, to youth who had never heard of the organization; from current Positive Tracks Charity Partners to high-profile nonprofits; from digital platform providers to educators. They used data and information accrued to target user needs, identify criteria for success, implement support tactics, and then figure out how to integrate it all into the existing U23 Challenges Program and onto a digital platform.

Whew!

“It was our own U23 Challenge!” says Kelly Moore, NCAA All American skier for Dartmouth, who admits they encountered many road-blocks, or, what she calls “those now what? points.”

Challenges piled on when, as part of the Fellows Program, the team made a last-minute decision to study a charitable yoga event in South Africa, and then needed to make emergency adjustments to their plan. Crawford notes, “The fact that we utilized most of the Positive Tracks Curriculum Pillars—especially Team, Grit, and Game Plan—without really realizing it, proved their value.”

paganucci fellowsThroughout the experience, the Fellows Team discovered that one major challenge for youth—once they’ve overcome the hurdle to take on a project — is to maintain the interest and energy necessary to see a project through to its end. The Fellows solution was the implementation of a Youth Mentorship Model into the U23 Challenges Program, whereby U23 Team Captains are linked to an experienced peer mentor from the Positive Tracks Youth Ambassador Board to provide guidance, leadership and moral support. “The Mentor Program provides a quick, easy way to get support when needed,” says Moore, who explains that captains can later become mentors themselves, creating a self-sustaining system of peer-to-peer support.

By mid-August, the group had delivered their findings and recommendations to the grateful and impressed Positive Tracks’ staff, who hope the Fellows feel very welcome visiting the office when regular studies resume. “The Paganucci Fellows met our expectations and far beyond,” says founder Nini Meyer, who was particularly impressed with the resourcefulness, creativity and practicality Fellows displayed in actually developing the youth mentor model, taking it far beyond conception. “Their thorough attention to detail and process infused our team with inspiration to keep working our tails off.”

Richard McNulty, faculty director of the Paganucci Fellows Program explains how the Positive Tracks experience reflects the multi-faceted goals of the program: “We try to equip them to apply business problem solving skills to help a social enterprise address a real world issue; work to identify their individual/collective strengths and weaknesses; and introduce them to professional paths beyond what Dartmouth students typically pursue.” Amidst all this, McNulty adds, “hopefully they have some fun along the way.”

The Fellows left with some inspiration of their own. “The exposure to, and interaction with, so many segments in the business and nonprofit world was really useful in figuring out what I want to do,” says Lexa Sonnenfeld. Fellows also had ideas for their own U23 Challenges, ranging from a 3v3 soccer tourney, a mountain summit, to a water sports event benefitting veterans.

“Somewhere along the line,” explains Steffen Eriksen, “the value of the program just clicked for me. Everyone has something they care about. Knowing there’s an organization out there to support your efforts to help others is big.”

Learn more about the 2016 Paganucci Fellows from Tuck’s perspective, here.

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