The idea of empowering kids and youth through technology and engineering had been running wild through Jules César Katagurutse’s head for over a year.
While volunteering for a church in Ottawa in 2010, Jules César saw children and young people grow “with no hope” as they distanced themselves from education.
These kids were mostly second-generation immigrants and from low-income families, who refrained from “dreaming big,” as their concerns focused on surviving from paycheck to paycheck.
Years later, while studying law at the Université de Moncton, he decided to address this issue by educating children and young adults on new technologies, control systems and coding.
“I wanted them to see they could apply their education and knowledge to something tangible and think ‘if someone did it, I can do it,’” he said.
The first week of November 2016, Jules César jumped on a bus with 14 other Pond-Deshpande Centre (PDC) Student Ambassadors and headed to the MassChallenge pitch competition in Boston.
There he met entrepreneurs and leaders from around the world who, like him, envisioned a more engaged youth. They were people who saw a problem or something lacking in education, health, even entertainment and took action to solve it.
After the four-day tour of the Boston entrepreneurship ecosystem, Jules César realized he wasn’t going to sit around and wait for change. He was going to create it.
On his return to New Brunswick, Jules Cesar got together with friends and started working on Labo des Jeunes/ Lab of Youth, a nonprofit, after-school program that teaches children and young adults about the importance of new technologies through hands-on workshops.
Through the PDC Student Ambassador Program, he connected with a network of entrepreneurs at every level, those just starting like him and others with consolidated ventures. This helped him access research and funding opportunities.
“They encouraged me and gave me the tools to adapt and adjust to the challenges presented while starting the program,” he said.
Labo des Jeunes launched on January 2017 and mentors 23 youths per week on Wednesday’s evenings.
“It’s not about success and failure,” Jules César said. “It’s about learning, getting knowledge and discovering how to approach different situations in life.”
Although it’s hard work, Jules César is enjoying the experience. He says everything has been possible because of the team working by his side.
He first realized the impact of the program when the parents whose children attended the program approached him and said their kids were asking about binary codes back at home.
They were not only learning but engaging in the material, something these parents hadn’t seen before.
“The more you know about entrepreneurship, the more you learn it’s not an easy road, but you get to see the fruit of your efforts,” Jules César said.
Labo des Jeunes will begin its second session in July. The program is striving to have more people enrolled to have a larger reach and impact. The next step is to hire a full-time coordinator of the program, he said.
Jules César is thankful for his time at the Student Ambassador Program because he knows Labo des Jeunes is contributing to the province by encouraging and shaping future opportunity creators.
“The opportunity was first given to me, and you go ‘oh, that’s how it’s done,’ and now I can share it with others.”
Click here to learn more about Labo des Jeunes/ Lab of Youth.