Alumna’s efforts earn Hult Prize nomination

Education and garbage rarely find themselves in the same category, but Western alumna Renee Vansevenant’s efforts to marry the two, for the benefit of some of the planet’s neediest children has led to international recognition for the recent Business Administration graduate.

While working on her masters in finance, through the Hult International Business School in London, England, Vansevenant and five classmates formed Schools4Future, an education program that provides schools, transportation and social support to children living in the slums of India.

For their idea, Vansevenant and her team recently advanced to the regional finals of the sixth annual Hult Prize Challenge. Sponsored by the Hult Prize Foundation, the challenge is the world’s largest student competition and start-up platform for social good.

Two teams of Western students also have advanced in the challenge.

“Winning the Hult Prize would be a dream come true. Not only would it open the doors for our start-up venture, but it will help me gain the experience needed to further my career,” Vansevenant said. “To work on an international platform to help reach children, who are far less fortunate than the average individual, would mean a lot to me.

“I have been fortunate enough to have the right to a quality education. I believe everyone should have the right to accessible and affordable education.”

Schools4Future would locate schools in the most populated slums in India to ensure easier access for community members.

In that area, the cost of transportation to and from school has been a barrier for young children who want to attend school. Vansevenant and her team tackled this hurdle by creating, education4trash. Here’s how it works:

Parents can pay for their child’s tuition in plastic trash – 40 kg a month to cover tuition. This may seem like a lot of plastic, but with 6,000 tonnes of plastic dumped into urban areas of India every day, the plan allows parents to give their children a better education while also cleaning up their community. Schools operate on profits generated by recycling all of the plastic collected.

Schools4Future will not only focus on education, but also on the health of their students. Every day a full meal will be provided to each student, a cost included in the tuition.

Under the theme, Early Childhood Education: The Unmet Need of the Century, the 2015 Hult Prize focuses on building start-ups that provide sustainable, high-quality early education solutions to 10 million children under the age of 6 in urban slums and beyond by the year 2020.

Each team selected for the regional finals was chosen from more than 20,000 applications received from more than 500 colleges and universities in more than 150 countries. Teams from eight Canadian universities qualified. The Hult Prize regional final competitions will take place on March 13-14 in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai and Shanghai.

The Hult International Business School (London Campus) team will compete in London.