Luc Espinosa – Mouthful.org
Mouthful flips the status quo by having world leaders sit next to disadvantaged high school students, enjoy an intimate dinner conversation, share stories, and transform lives. These events are unique, game-changing events which lead to both sides learning about possible solutions to relevant issues and inspiring change. Mouthful addresses a very specific societal habit among people of influence: they tend to almost exclusively share meals and intimate conversations with other people of influence. Every conference, be it Davos, a TED-conference, or a roundtable of environmental leaders gathering is about bringing these experts together. Politicians meet wealthy contributors over dinner. What if each of these gatherings extended to having dinner with those least likely to have a seat at the table? We want the underserved, those from low-income families, to have such an opportunity.
Adults often say how meeting a luminary, someone of influence in person, was a transformative once in a lifetime experience in their youth. We aim to replicate this for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who often feel the most disenfranchised. Our name, Mouthful, represents not just a wonderful meal but also giving voice to those who are not heard. Mouthful goes beyond a simple handshake and a selfie or packed-gym lecture. Our dinners are two-hour long conversations between six students and one leader.
Past guests include the President of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, co-founder of Twitter, Biz Stone, Chair of the DNC, Tom Perez, former US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, Deputy Mayor of London, Matthew Ryder, and Executive Director of UN Women, Elizabeth Nyamayaro. This is an entirely student-focused, student-led initiative. High schoolers are involved in selecting guests, partner outreach, working on logistics with restaurants and grants, and of course, attending the event. There is no adult present at the meal except the guest leader. We have a proven formula that consists of dinners between a global leader and six students, across cities in the US and every month of the school year. Mouthful.org’s ultimate goal is to make this a self-sustainable global movement, empowering thousands of high school students to have their voices heard, and feeling inspired to lead change in their communities.
The initial seed grant from TPP played a key role in testing out the Mouthful model: six students from underserved communities and a global leader for an intimate meal conversation. After the grant period, we were proud to have received overwhelming support from both students and guests in California. Not only was the boost from the Pollination Project grant vital for kickstarting the project, but it ultimately helped scale our efforts nationally. Since receiving the TPP grant, we were able to involve more high profile guests, developing more partnerships with national scholar organizations for underserved students, expand across the United States and Europe, and partner with institutions that can help provide more guests.
Mouthful has grown from a high school project to a nationally recognized organization. We’ve received unprecedented encouragement from world leaders and students, and now, have the funds to match this momentum. Receiving this larger follow up will help Mouthful.org become a truly global movement by allowing us further sustain national chapters in the US, while also aiding our expansion to Europe, and possibly even Asia.
We invited eligible grantees to apply for up to $5,000 in Impact Grants which will allow them to apply their creativity and ingenuity to grow their projects to greater heights.
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