Young people “have a lot of power to make change, even if it is small,” says Khaoula Morchid, who founded Future Moroccan Entrepreneurs at age 17.
“We train youth to start their own enterprises,” the Notre Dame civil engineering student says. “The idea is to promote productivity and an entrepreneurial mindset among youth between 15 and 20 years old.”
She explains that in Morocco, high-achieving students are encouraged to study math and science, and to pursue higher education in Europe to ensure they can get a job. The problem, Morchid recognized, is twofold. First, students don’t feel free to pursue their interests and instead limit themselves to practical fields. Second, because students are focused on getting top academic marks, they don’t give back to the community through service or participate in extracurricular activities. Their lack of involvement inhibits growth in the community.
The idea for Future Moroccan Entrepreneurs (FME) came to Morchid when she was attending the African Leadership Academy. She reasoned that encouraging initiative and a sense of leadership in young people could result in them taking the lead in fixing many of Morocco’s social problems. She also hoped FME would help its students realize the potential they had to shape their communities and their country.
In three years, 100 students have gone through the program, which revolves around five principles: Believe, understand, invent, listen and deliver. At the five-day camp in Marrakesh, they’re asked to create a solution to a societal issue and then to use the growing FME network to make it a reality.
So what does Morchid, now a Hesburgh-Yusko scholar at ND approaching her junior year, hope to change in Morocco? “Health, education and employment, because they touch everything else,” she says, explaining that such issues as crime and brain drain would be solved by improvements in these key areas.
“My ALA experience is a privilege, my education is a privilege, and my way of paying forward what I had is to share what I learned at ALA with my peers and inspire them to take action when they have ideas, or come up with ideas once they see a need.”
Tara Hunt is a former associate editor of this magazine.