Diana Solomon and her work deserve a big spotlight. In the past few months, we've gotten to learn more about the Social Innovation Fellowship that Diana leads, as a part of 4Front Baltimore. Her dedication to social enterprise, to youth in Baltimore and to the next wave of innovation is so impressive and exciting.
We know you will love reading more about her projects in our quick Q+A, and be sure to check out her latest article, Connecting Teens to Social Enterprise, in our October issue of En Root!
Tell us about your personal and professional journey, and how social enterprise has played a role.
I am a Baltimore native and have always had a passion for helping others. Although I studied communications in undergrad, I knew when I graduated that I wanted to find my way to mission-driven work that would inspire me. I have always loved working with youth and teens; helping them figure out who they are and who they want to be. In my current role as coordinator of the Social Innovation Fellowship, a youth social entrepreneurship program, I have had the incredible opportunity to combine my own passions while helping teens find and focus their own.
At OutGrowth, we are committed to giving access. Tell us what access means to you, and how you achieve access in your professional path.
To me, access is creating a space where everyone has a voice and a seat at the table- something we are always striving to do at 4Front for the teens in our community. One of my favorite things about social enterprise is its ability to level the playing field and create space for anyone with vision and drive.
Explain a time when you were impacted by or had an impact within social enterprise. Why was this experience significant?
My most impactful experience with social enterprise was in my first year of running the Social Innovation Fellowship, simply watching my first cohort of teens get their first taste of social enterprise. In the program, students are tasked with coming up with their own idea for a social enterprise and, with the help of local business mentors, develop that idea over the course of the program. Hearing these high school sophomores and juniors speak so passionately about what problems they cared about solving, and what innovative ideas they could use to tackle them, was awe-inspiring.
How did this experience change the course of your life, your career or your outlook?
This really changed my outlook because it helped me to realize the impact programs like these have on our youth. When teens feel like they are being taken seriously, are invested in, and are given room to think creatively, it's amazing what they can do. This generation is special. They care. They are passionate, driven and smart. If every teen could be given opportunities and access to programs like this, there's no telling what they could achieve.
What would you say are the top three most important steps that students and young professionals can take today in their journeys to build a life and a career connected to social good?
I would say, find work that touches your head, your heart, and your hands. Find a career that challenges you mentally, feeds your soul, and where you can still get a little dirt on your hands.
Given your current passion for social enterprise, if you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
"No one else knows what they're doing either." Life is a series of figuring things out as we go along and no one has the answers. When I was younger, I was so often frustrated by not knowing how to get to where I wanted to go. Just like building a business, I would remind myself that life is trial and error, risk and reward, and all about failing forward.
What are some words of wisdom that you would offer students exploring the possibility of an immersive experience as a component of building their own way forward?
Immersive experiences are incredible opportunities to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and figure out who you are and what you want. If it makes you uncomfortable, it means you're growing! These are the years to try new things and take risks- do it!
What is your favorite quote?
"Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one's thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world."
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
What's next? What are your next steps toward growth in 2019?
The Social Innovation Fellowship is entering its third cohort of the program with 20 new high school students. We hope to continue inspiring youth and showing them that they have the power to be the change they want to see in the world!
Diana Solomon is the Director of Innovation at 4Front Baltimore, a Jewish teen engagement initiative funded and supported by the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Jim Joseph Foundation, and JCC of Greater Baltimore. Diana is currently running her third cohort of the Social Innovation Fellowship, a program open to Jewish high-school students in the Baltimore area. Diana is a Baltimore native and graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park.