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17 Y/O RISE Global Winner from Johor shares how her non-profit strives to empower youths

RISE is a programme that finds brilliant teenagers who need support for their projects that benefit the communities around them. Founded by Wendy and Eric Schmidt, Google’s ex-CEO, RISE chooses 100 Global Winners each year and provides them with a lifetime of benefits as they work to serve others. 

Under this initiative by Schmidt Futures in collaboration with Rhodes Trust, the programme builds up teenagers ages 15–17 by offering them scholarships, mentorship, access to career development opportunities, and funding, as they work toward solving humanity’s most pressing problems. 

This year, we have our very own Malaysian who’s been selected as one of RISE’s Global Winners: 17-year-old Belle See from Johor.

From an initiative started during the MCO

Despite having an interest in technology, Belle has always perceived coding as a job meant for boys who liked gaming. 

Then came COVID-19’s lockdowns, where she found free time on her hands and began learning to code with the help of online communities comprising youth who shared the interest.

But Belle wasn’t learning to code for the mere sake of it. Her goal was to create a platform that connected SEA female and non-binary students to the right resources so they could pursue their interests in technology. The platform would empower these beneficiaries by hosting workshops, inviting female speakers to high school hackathons, and providing mentorship.

That was how the non-profit community project Command Tech came to fruition.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” Belle admitted to Vulcan Post on her biggest challenge during this process. “I knew where I wanted to be but I wasn’t sure how to get there, so I spoke to students (most of them in the US) that also led organisations for advice, Googled [resources], and reached out to adults on Linkedin, asking for advice.”

She further explained that the platform has pivoted multiple times after the failure of her initial goals, before eventually landing on its mentorship programme, Command Connect. 

Connecting via social media, the team of 14 volunteers has onboarded members from over 15 countries including Malaysia, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Russia, and more. “Right now we’re trying to tackle the ‘equity of access’ problem by devising a programme that targets B40 students and will be implementing it next year (as COVID-19 improves),” Belle envisioned.

Thus far, the non-profit has directly impacted over 400 people, Belle shared.

Because all programmes were conducted online, there is virtually no cost involved and Belle has been running her non-profit without any funding. However, the team has been fundraising through corporate sponsorships for a programme next year which financially incentivises students to learn to code.

A reach for more impact

After being chosen as a finalist, Belle was put into groups of 4 on Finalist Day to present her project, undergo debates, and problem-solving exercises, before a final 1-1 interview.

“Throughout the entire Finalist Day, all I could think about was how everyone there was so freakin’ cool, and I had a lot of imposter syndrome,” she recounted. “I have no idea why I was selected but I believe that RISE wants to invest in youths that want to work and serve others.” 

She then added that although Command Tech is not yet at a scale that can change lives, it is her goal to bring it there. Being a Global Winner, Belle will have access to a funding pool of at least US$5 million per year that she can apply to for funds.

These funds will then be used to experiment with innovative ideas to address major problems in local communities or around the world. 

A Command Tech meeting / Image Credit Belle See

One immediate initiative she’d like to bring to pass is to make technology education more accessible. This is after realising that although the internet is full of resources surrounding topics like coding, low-income youths either don’t know about it or are unable to access it.

Therefore, Command Tech will host a programme that will encourage youths to learn coding. The initiative will select 100 Malaysians aged 14-18 and provide them with a mentor, tailored workshops, and other aid in building a technical project over the course of 4 months.

RM500 will be given to students, with the potential for scholarships for upper-secondary schooling. To make it accessible to B40 teens, the team will travel to different schools in impoverished areas to initiate sign-ups and offer to sponsor a computer to anyone accepted into the programme that doesn’t have one. 

Right now, the world is at a tipping point where problems such as climate change, overpopulation, inequality, and more seem to be never-ending. Having a generation of innovators that are technically inclined is important if we are ever going to find a solution. And the first step towards this is through education and giving youths the chance to be exposed to the world of technology and creation.

Belle See, RISE Global Winner 2021.

A chance to develop professionally

To Belle, winning this competition means that she will get to go to university without burdening her parents whose businesses were severely impacted by COVID-19. This is because RISE Global Winners are also promised a 4-year, post-secondary scholarship at any accredited university, with tuition fees and living expenses provided on a need basis.

On top of the scholarship, Global Winners will be paired with mentors to provide them with personal and professional guidance, which Belle expressed her excitement for. Belle knows first-hand of the instrumental growth that comes with having a great mentor like Ashley Suelyn, Chief of Staff at SOCAR, on her NPO’s board. 

As for the access that Global Winners will get to network events, Belle is hoping to build relationships with other winners to learn about their own passions and hopefully collaborate on projects.

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As Malaysians ourselves, we’re proud to have someone like Belle represent our country’s potential on a global stage. Furthermore, her status as a youth trying to make change for our other youth is inspiring all-around, and we look forward to seeing more Malaysia RISE Global Winners in the future.

  • You can learn more about Command Tech here and RISE here.
  • You can read more stories about Malaysian entrepreneurs here.

Featured Image Credit: Belle See, RISE Global Winner 2021

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