17-year-old Johorean non-profit founder is sole M’sian RISE Global Winner

RISE is a program that finds bright teens who need support for their projects that benefit the communities around them. Founded by Wendy and Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, RISE chooses 100 global winners each year and gives them a lifetime of benefits as they work to serve others.

As part of this initiative by Schmidt Futures in collaboration with Rhodes Trust, the program trains adolescents between the ages of 15 and 17 by providing them with scholarships, mentoring, access to career development opportunities and funding, while ‘they strive to solve humanity’s most pressing problems.

This year we have our own Malaysian who was selected as one of the global RISE winners: Belle See, 17, from Johor.

From an initiative launched during the MCO

Despite her interest in technology, Belle always saw coding as a job for boys who loved games.

Then came the lockdowns of COVID-19, where she found some free time and started learning to code with the help of online communities including young people who shared the interest.

But Belle wasn’t learning to code for the fun of it. Her goal was to create a platform that connected SEA and non-binary female students with the right resources so that 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 mentoring.

This is how the community non-profit Command Tech project came to fruition.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” Belle admitted to Vulcan Post about her biggest challenge during this process. “I knew where I wanted to be, but I didn’t know how to get there, so I spoke to students (mostly in the US) who also ran organizations for advice, Googled [resources], and reached out to adults on Linkedin for advice.

She further explained that the platform pivoted several times after her initial goals failed, before eventually landing on her mentorship program, Command Connect.

Connecting through social media, the team of 14 volunteers included members from more than 15 countries, including Malaysia, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Russia and more. “At the moment, we are trying to solve the ‘equity of access’ problem by designing a program that targets B40 students and will implement it next year (as COVID-19 improves)” , Belle considered.

So far, the association has directly reached over 400 people, Belle said.

Because all of the programs were conducted online, there is virtually no cost involved and Belle ran her nonprofit organization without any funding. However, the team raised money through corporate sponsorships for a program next year that provides financial incentives for students to learn to code.

Reach for more impact

After being chosen as a finalist, Belle was divided into groups of 4 on the finalists day to present her project, participate in debates and problem-solving exercises, before a final 1-1 interview.

“Throughout the finalists day all I could think of was how so cool everyone was and I had a lot of impostor syndrome,” she said. “I have no idea why I was selected, but I believe RISE wants to invest in young people who want to work and serve others. ”

She then added that while Command Tech is not yet on a life-changing scale, its goal is to get it there. As a global winner, Belle will have access to a funding pool of at least US $ 5 million per year that she can apply for funds.

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

A Command Tech Meeting / Belle See Image Credit

One immediate initiative that she would like to carry out is to make technology education more accessible. It was after realizing that while the internet is full of resources on topics like coding, low-income youth either don’t know it or can’t access it.

Therefore, Command Tech will organize a program that will encourage young people to learn coding. The initiative will select 100 Malaysians aged 14-18 and provide them with a mentor, tailor-made workshops and other aids to build a technical project over a period of 4 months.

500 RM will be awarded to students, with the possibility of scholarships for upper secondary education. To make it accessible to B40 teenagers, the team will visit different schools in disadvantaged areas to initiate registrations and offer to sponsor a computer to anyone accepted into the program who does not have one.

Right now, the world is at a tipping point where issues like climate change, overpopulation, inequality and many more seem endless. It is important to have a generation of innovators passionate about technology if we are ever to find a solution. And the first step towards this is through education and the possibility for young people to be exposed to the world of technology and creation.

Belle See, RISE 2021 Global Winner.

A chance to develop professionally

For Belle, winning this competition means she will be able to go to college without weighing down her parents, whose businesses have been severely affected by COVID-19. This is because RISE Global Laureates are also promised a 4-year post-secondary scholarship to any accredited university, with tuition and living expenses provided on an as-needed basis.

In addition to the scholarship, the Global Winners will be matched with mentors to provide them with personal and professional advice, which Belle has expressed her enthusiasm for. Belle knows firsthand the instrumental growth that comes with having a great mentor like Ashley Suelyn, Chief of Staff at SOCAR, on her NPO’s board.

When it comes to the access global winners will have to network events, Belle hopes to build relationships with other winners to learn more about their own passions and hopefully collaborate on projects.

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As Malaysians ourselves, we are proud that someone like Belle represents our country’s potential on the world stage. Additionally, his status as a youngster trying to make changes to our other young people is an inspiration to all, and we look forward to seeing more Malaysia RISE Global Winners in the future.

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

Image Credit Featured: Belle See, RISE Global Winner 2021

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