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Impact 0534: Helping students find their path

Ethan Christian Tan · 14 April 2022
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Youth Action Challenge (YAC) is a platform for youth to provide solutions that tackle the issues we are concerned about. Since October 2021, over 80 teams and more than 310 youths have undertaken the YAC Season 3 journey.

Ethan Christian Tan, 21 is an incoming university student, and the President of SGExams, a nonprofit organisation run by students, for students. They organise webinars, workshops and mentorship programmes to support students’ academics, extracurricular development and mental wellness, and recently launched their new ECG Pathfinding Programme through Season 3 of the Youth Action Challenge.

With the ECG Pathfinding programme, SGExams hopes to ensure pre-university students are able to work towards their post-education life with clear and defined goals.

Today he shares more about his project and their journey on the YAC!

What was your role within your YAC project?

As President of SGExams, I was the one who proposed our attendance at YAC, putting together our team of five representatives. I served as the team leader: other than being in charge of our overall direction in YAC and conceptualizing our project, the ECG Pathfinding Programme, I also broke down our direction into broad actionables, which I then assigned to each of our team members based on their areas of jurisdiction. 

I supervised all aspects of the project, from monitoring the progress of our mentees and mentors to leading the development of our project’s supplementary programmes (including ECG-related articles, webinars, and fireside chats). In particular, I took charge of acquiring external partners such as the Mentoring AfA and other nonprofits, and also planned our midpoint and final pitches.

What motivated you to join YAC?

As a fully student-run nonprofit, SGExams relies on external sources of funding to sustain our operations and scale our impact. Seeing other nonprofits join and benefit greatly from YAC in the past, not just from the funding they obtained but also the expert guidance offered by the National Youth Council and its mentors/partner organisations, we thought YAC was a great opportunity for SGExams to scale our operations. 

Beyond obtaining mentorship and support, SGExams is also all about community, and as such, we wanted to expand our network of partner organisations, not only to seize opportunities for future partnerships and collaborations, but also to allow other socially-driven organisations to extend their services or benefits to our online communities of over 90,000 students, benefiting the local student body.

Personally, I’m also keenly interested in the startup scene and venture capital — especially the social driven segment of it — and aim to get involved during university. YAC, especially since it was run in conjunction with 500 start-ups, served as a good first exposure to the fundamentals of building a business and crafting a compelling pitch.

Can you share with us your experience with your YAC project?

YAC basically met all my expectations in terms of the learning points and resources I thought SGExams could gain from it. We connected with experienced and generous mentors from varied backgrounds — both private and public — but all with the common goal of helping the projects under YAC scale and achieve impact. Over the course of YAC, we met our mentors regularly, attended informative workshops, and developed the ECG Pathfinding Programme according to the advice and learning points we received.

What are some challenges you faced while working on your YAC project?

This season of YAC, in terms of both the workshops and final pitch, seemed to be more geared towards social enterprises rather than nonprofit organisations — as such, some of the workshop content was less applicable to us, and it seemed as though fewer resources were given to established nonprofits as opposed to established social enterprises. 

Nevertheless, our team adapted what we learnt in the YAC workshops to fit the unique context of SGExams. The judging process was also fair, and we still managed to obtain more than enough funding to sustain SGExams’ operations from a near to medium-term. 

Another challenge we initially faced was finding mentors who were willing to commit to a structured 4-month mentorship period with our mentees. Given that SGExams’ communities generally comprise younger students, it was easier to find mentees than it was to find mentors. 

Leveraging on SGExams’ existing connections and the new connections we made through YAC, however, we managed to find organisations (such as the Mentoring Alliance for Action, The Astronauts’ Collective, NUS Entrepreneurship Society, The Mentoring Circle, etc.) who not only helped us reach out to larger pools of potential mentors, but also offered aid in terms of resources to train and guide our mentors through our programme.

Could you share more on how your project has a positive impact?

SGExams runs a wide array of programmes, such as webinars, workshops and mentorship programmes, in four broad categories: academics, ECG, mental wellness, and community service. We joined YAC’s Jobs and Mentoring track to develop a new ECG-focused programme, which we termed the ECG Pathfinding Programme.

The ECG Pathfinding Programme comprises two components:

Firstly, a structured mentorship programme. Mentees are assigned primary mentors, who work with them to define their interests, and identify potential university and career goals in line with their interests. Once these goals have been identified, mentees can be connected to additional secondary mentors, who will provide more specific advice on the mentees’ identified goals. 

Unlike many existing mentorship programmes, the ECG Pathfinding Programme thus allows mentees to obtain both education and career advice from one place, and also doesn’t require mentees to already have an idea of what they want to do in the future before signing up.

Secondly, the mentorship programme is supplemented by additional community-focused programmes such as articles and webinars, allowing us to expand our reach beyond just our pool of mentees for each round of the programme.

Were there any key takeaways or learning points from your time with YAC?

I learnt a lot about what it means to create a compelling product or service. With the many mentorship programmes already available out there, we had to be clear on our unique value proposition — what differentiates SGExams and its programmes from others. We decided that our value proposition was community: with our large network of mentors and partner organisations, we’re able to connect mentees with a wide range of mentors and organisations who can cater to whatever their interests may be.

Feel free to connect with me on linkedin.com/in/ethanchristiantan!

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