2011: Eric W. Glustrom and Boris Bulayev

Eric W. Glustrom, President, and Boris Bulayev, Executive Director, Educate!

2011: Eric W. Glustrom and Boris Bulayev

Eric W. Glustrom, age 27, and Boris Bulayev, age 26, were honored for their leadership of Educate!. Glustrom started Educate! in 2002 at the age of 17 after filming a documentary in a refugee settlement in Uganda. Glustrom was inspired to start Educate! after recognizing the potential of youth to become leaders who could develop solutions to the challenges facing their country and continent. Boris Bulayev teamed with Glustrom to lead Educate! at the start of their sophomore year at Amherst College. Glustrom and Bulayev graduated from Amherst College in 2007 with degrees in biochemistry and economics respectively. More information on Eric W. Glustrom and Boris Bulayev is available on the team section of the Educate! website.

Eric and Boris' Full Presentation

See Eric and Boris' full presentation, "How getting cut from the basketball team led me to Educate!: Jumping in the Deep End" - presented October 26, 2011 in Herrick Chapel. (Note: Change from presentation title found in official program.)


>> MELISA CHAN: Hello, welcome, and thank you for coming. My name is Melisa Chan and I am the coordinator of the Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize Program. I have the distinct pleasure of introducing you to tonight’s Prize winners, Eric W. Glustrom and Boris Bulayev.

Eric is the co-founder and president of Educate! He recently just celebrated his 27th birthday on October 9th. Eric, happy belated birthday.

Boris, co-founder and executive director of Educate!, turned 26 last April on the exact day he and Eric found out that they had won the prize. Boris, here is to many more pleasant surprises on your birthday.  

In 2002, then a high school student Eric started Educate! Boris joined the organization in 2004 as a sophomore at Amherst College. Both Eric and Boris graduated from Amherst in 2007, Eric with a degree in biochemistry, and Boris with a degree in economics. Together they have been able to build Educate! to something bigger than they could have accomplished alone. Eric and Boris’ organization Educate! is punctuated with an exclamation point. That one simple exclamation mark aptly and concisely describes three aspects of Educate!

First—it describes the innovative impact, the innovative nature of their organization. Educate! is the first organization in the world to incorporate its social entrepreneurship curriculum into a national education system, specifically in the national education system of Uganda.

Second—that exclamation mark also describes the impact of their organization. The impact the organization has already had. Educate! currently works with 1400 individual leaders and entrepreneurs throughout Uganda using the expediential empowerment model. Defined as a long term investment and a few who will go on to impact many others. In addition, that exclamation describes the impact the organization will continue to have. Educate!’s social entrepreneurship curriculum will reach 45,000 students by the end of 2012. Just think of what Educate! will be able to accomplish in 5 or 10 years from now.

Thirdly—and finally—that exclamation mark describes the passionate and personality filled leadership of Eric and Boris.  Their passion and their unique personalities are self-evident to anybody who has already had a chance to meet them. If you have not had the chance to have a one-on-one conversation with them, you still have time to do so this week.

My first contact with Eric and Boris were through emails as the Prize office needed additional information from them as Prize finalists. Over several emails, without looking who the sender was, I was able to identify emails written by Boris or Eric simply by the sheer number of exclamatory marks they used in their emails.  When I finally met Eric and Boris in person this past Monday, their exclamatory personalities—that is their enthusiasm and excitement for what they do—were infectious. In just one day and several hours later, I knew they would fit right into campus. Here are just some examples: He will tell you they are not naps, he is very emphatic about it, but he takes frequent naps. So Boris has discovered at JRC there is a secret student napping lounge and he found out his first day here. I have been working here 10 months and I did not know such a thing existed.  

Also Eric and Boris have a tendency to run on “Grinnell” time. For instance, at 8:01 I think Boris finally showed up for this presentation which started at 8:00.  Also, laundry does not seem to be a priority as I ended up ironing Eric’s shirt this past Monday night and almost had opportunity to do a suitcase full of dirty laundry from Uganda.

What I find most inspirational is the friendship and partnership between Boris and Eric. They would give each other the shirt off their own backs, figuratively and literally as happened this Monday. I overheard a conversation right before we were to be at a kind of a fancy business attire event at the Des Moines Embassy Club. It was 30 minutes before we were supposed to be there, I overhear Boris saying to Eric, “Dude, you can’t wear this.” I look over and Eric presented a shirt that was two times bigger than he was, with sleeves that went past his fingers, so what happened was Boris leant him a shirt that I needed to iron that Eric wore to this event. But they do dress up nicely as you can see. So I am really, really pleased to introduce Boris and Eric. Boris will be talking about his title, "How Getting Cut from the Basketball Team Brought Me to Educate!" and Eric’s talk is called "Jumping in the Deep End." Without further ado—Boris.


>> BORIS BULAYEV: I really feel like I am part of the Grinnell community now. First off I guess I want to thank all of you guys for having me. It is an incredible honor to be here.  I want to thank everyone for welcoming me so much in this community and thank my partner Eric for putting up with me for seven years now. I am not sure if you guys saw James Kofi Annan's speech. I don’t remember the inspirational chills going down my back as strongly, so I am not sure how I will be able to follow but I can say it is a privilege to be sharing the stage with him as well as Melissa, and I feel just generally honored to be here.

Today I want to talk about a few lessons that I think I have learned in my short life that to me seem relevant no matter what you choose to do. Then to tell you a little about why I do what I do.

So my first story deals with failure. It starts with my childhood, an important part of my life that I lost when I got to college. I came to the states with my mom when I was seven from Latvia. When I got here I really had no clue where I was. I actually remember one of my first days in school, coming up to someone speaking Russian to them, being surprised they did not speak back to me. I also remember choosing whether to go with Americanized Bobby as a name or to stick with Boris, although I have taken a lot of Boris Yeltsin and Rocky and Bullwinkle ridicule in my life including Monday at dinner, I think I've made the good choice. As soon as I figured out where I was, I immediately fell in love with a sport—basketball. I love the game and it was kind of my way to get integrated to the U.S. and I started playing right away. Pretty quickly on I had plans to play in the N.B.A. and was debating whether I would be in the slam dunk or three-point contest, and/or both. Those plans did not unfold as I would have liked but I am still hopeful.

When I got to high school, basketball truly became my life. I committed to play three hours a day, six days a week and wanted to be player of the year in San Francisco, where I was from.  My love of the game and dedication paid off or began to pay off as I won second team All-City junior year. Things were moving along really well senior year, about four games left in my season, I went up for a lay-up, came down a little funny and something felt wrong. I found out a week later that I tore my ACL and that my season was over. I was pretty devastated to say the least. With time, I recovered and had my surgery and began rehab with the goal of making the team at Amherst College where I decided to go to school. I rehabilitated very hard and actually came back in about five months which is pretty fast time horizon for this but I was very determined to make the team.

I started playing with the team right away, and though I was not playing great, I really thought my chances were pretty good at making the team. I got along really well with everyone. I worked so hard to come back and came back so fast that I kind of thought, I put everything behind this, there is no way I could fail. I remember a few days during the tryouts; coach took me outside and told me, I am not going to keep you. I really did not know what to say. I packed up my bags, went outside and cried. I could not really believe it happened. I worked so hard to do this, to rehab and to make it and did everything that I could to succeed but I failed. It really hurt. In a school like Amherst it was particularly tough just because everything revolved around sports and I spent the first three months of college with all my basketball friends, so I had to find a new set of friends, really a new identity because my I always conceptualized myself as a basketball player. If I was not that, who was I?  

I did a variety of things to figure out what I would do, volunteered in local after school program with lower income kids. I tried to join student government. I think I even tried to D.J. at the radio station which was a bit of a failure. I was eventually able to find some new friends and settle into my post-basketball existence. But things were not really the same. I left the summer after my freshman year thinking I might try out again and started working really hard to get back into shape. I came back, started playing with the team and really wanted to prove myself that I could make it, prove that I could overcome this challenge.  I was playing with the team, then made a turn and then tore my ACL again. I guess I was not going to be able to avenge my failure. I was pretty devastated again.

And then, sort of out of nowhere, shortly after tearing my ACL after a pretty challenging start to sophomore year, Eric came up to me and told me a little bit more about Educate! and told me that he wanted to bring it to Amherst and he asked me if I would get involved. I was like, I don’t have really anything to do with myself, I might as well do it. The rest is history. In hindsight, I really would not have had things any other way and so many good things in my life have happened but it all happened because of this failure. This kind of brings me to my first lesson — to find failures in opportunities…uh find, opportunities in failures. [laughter] The lights are bright over here. [laughter] I think every failure is an opportunity for something new. I don’t think I would be here today without my biggest failure of all and losing what I thought was so integral to me.  

My second story actually starts with another failure and deals with risk. At the end of college, probably like all of you, I was nervous about what to do and really wanted to be a management consultant so I read all the books, emailed every firm, tried really hard to get a job and again failed. But in that failure, right before I left college, I met someone randomly through a party who is alum and I found my dream job, working to start companies at a start-up incubator which is basically a company that starts other companies. I had an amazing experience there and truly learned to become an entrepreneur. Again found myself in hindsight really lucky to fail at getting a management consulting job. After about 15 months, I felt it was time to go. I had learned everything that I could and wanted to be on my own. I wanted to spend more time on Educate! and in general wanted to be more entrepreneurial, but it was the fall of 2008 which was a pretty gruesome time for some and the world was somewhat falling apart. Everyone told me I was crazy.  But I knew I had to do it and I did. I quit and never regretted it. That takes me to my second lesson which is take risks to pursue your passion. What really convinced me and really continues to drive me today is this idea that if I can’t take a risk now to do something I really care about, its not be any easier two years later. I was 23 at the time and it was not going to be any easier when I was 25, it will be even tougher when I am 30.  Seeing some of my friends now who have not taken some of those risks, I think it is true. I think you really do have to take risks to get what you want and one of the things that I have noticed is as I have taken one risk, I have been able to take more and my tolerance to do that has improved. I am really glad that I learned that early on and feel very blessed to know that everything I can accomplish by just taking risks and pursuing my passion.

The final story deals with becoming good at something. It has closely to do with our experience with building Educate!, especially coming out of college. First off, I think it is worth pointing out that we really had no idea what we were doing during college and just really trying to figure out our best. We talked to the Social Entrepreneurial Group and it sounds like they knew a lot more than we did at the time. During the summer after we graduated from Amherst College, after we had gotten over our period of mourning, post-college. We took a deep dive into this lesson and tried to figure out how we could take this project we had built in college which gave scholarships for young people to attend school and make it into something innovative. So we did what we knew how to do and we emailed a bunch of people, went online and tried to find everyone we could find in Uganda through random circles and asked them if they would talk to us. We were hoping to find some answers for us from them. We had a lot of conversations talking about ways Educate! could be better and ways we could more effectively achieve our goals, ways we could improve. We had a strong drive to become better and I think we really did, that summer, because of that drive. From that summer on, we got the concept of what we do now, which has gone on to win several awards, and it was really coming in blank and not knowing anything but just asking a lot of questions and listening and slowly piecing something pretty cool together. We really started out without a clue but I think the desire to learn took us there. This new found belief in asking advice and striving to become better did not stop. It really has become part of the culture of our organization. That is why I think we will continue growing and being more impactful.

During the next year we had a bunch more conversations and continued to improve, to this day consistently seek out people who can help us out. Just this morning, we had breakfast with the controller of Grinnell College who taught us many things we did not know about finance, which we should know. So the process continues. I think in general, something that I built faith in, is that even when you start with nothing, if you just have an urge and eagerness to learn eventually you can become pretty good, which is my last lesson.

To be clear, there are a lot of things we don’t do well at Educate! but I think that there are a few things that we do really well and that is because we ask for advice. I think the things we do poorly; we are consistently trying to improve. Another example actually, my partner Eric here, I would say is pretty close to an expert advocate now who has been helping train and support the International Labor Organization which is a many, many million-dollar organization and how to advocate for a cause and how to work with governments. Eric is not particularly trained in advocacy but he has been eager to learn and has been trying to do his best. I do really believe if you try to become really good at something, you eventually will.

So those are three lessons that kind of are what I take away from my life so far: Turn failures into opportunities, take risks to pursue your passion, and if you try hard to become really good at something, eventually you will. I think without them I would not be here today. Those lessons don’t have to apply to social justice, although they did in my case. It is something I cherish deeply and I know can carry forth whatever I do.

Before I finish I wanted to say something quickly about why I do what I do which actually very much resonates with what James Kofi Annan said. Growing up as an immigrant, my drive and ambition was very much to make money and be successful. It motivated me throughout school and in my childhood. But by the end of Amherst College, which I am seeing is very, very similar to Grinnell, I realized that I had been given so much opportunity that my path had already been set up for me, I just had to run down it. It began to feel very unfair that others don’t have that same opportunity. I personally find that fundamentally unfair and unjust.

So I have dedicated myself to helping others get that same opportunity. James Kofi Annan said, “to whom much is given, much is expected.” I think that rings very true.  

I want to encourage all of you guys to find your purpose and the way you can leverage your own opportunity to help others who haven't been as lucky. For me that means doing Educate!, for you it will probably be something else. But whatever it is, just make sure to find your purpose and take advantage of your opportunity.

I recently read a really good study that compared two groups of people that were pursuing their ambitions. One group had monetary ambition and one had a purpose driven goal. They studied this group over a long period of time. They found after about 10 years, the group that had been searching for money had achieved that goal, was equally happy but was a lot more stressed out. Whereas the group that was pursuing their purpose goal was no more stressed out and even happier.  So in many ways, it seems like pursuing your purpose is pretty equivalent to pursuing happiness.

I would like to close by affirming the power of young people. We were very young when we started this but if you actually look at most major innovations, changes, organizations in the world, they are all started by people in their 20s; Apple, Microsoft, Google. It is very rare to actually find really huge organizations that were not. I think there are a variety of reasons for this which I am happy to discuss afterwards, but I think it really shows the unique drive and flexibility in thinking that young people have that makes them uniquely capable at changing the world. I am only 26, but I do already feel a bit old in this world. I was at the leading U.S. social entrepreneurship conference this September and I looked around and it was like, “Wow, I am the oldest one here.” So don’t wait, I think your time is definitely now. If I would take anything from Eric and my experience it is that we did not really have a path in what we were doing, in my case I was lost looking for something else to do but by reacting to life’s challenges and finding opportunities in them, taking a few risks and being really eager to learn, we were able to make something truly impactful happen.

I think from everything that I know about the Grinnell community and the incredible students that I have been lucky enough to meet, I am very confident that all of you will go on to change the world in ways that I can only imagine. It has been really amazing to interact with the students here. I do truly see potential, amazing potential in everyone here and in the ideas that people have. I hope you will keep me updated and share your lessons with me in the future. Thank you.


>> ERIC W. GLUSTROM: Boris and I often times don’t agree on things. I actually remember him coming into my room and asking me if he could get more involved in Educate! rather than me going to him. I think he was still wearing his knee brace at that point by the way.

It is good to have a partner that you don’t agree with really. So I want to talk about jumping in the deep end. When I was a senior—4th year excuse me—at Amherst, the common problem was, common question, what are you going to do when you graduate. I did not know clearly what I was going to do. My friends had no idea what they were going to do. Really I think it is something that comes with the privilege of a place like this. We have so many choices. We have so many interests. We can do so many different things. It is just a problem choosing which one to do. I like to use cheesy analogies as you will figure out throughout this talk.

The first one has to do with the pool. I think a college, as us when we are college students lying on the side of a pool on a lounge chair, looking out over the pool of life. We are probably examining that pool trying to learn more about it, occasionally dipping our hand in the pool and feeling the water but really we are lounging on a lounge chair, probably with a fruity drink with an umbrella in it and just having a great time. Then you know, once college ends and you realize you have to get up from this lounge chair, I would like to encourage you all instead of taking the easy stairs down into the pool, to really walk around to the other side and just jump in the deep end.

There is a proverb that goes something like this, “what I hear I forget, what I see I remember, and what I do I understand.” When Mahatma Gandhi was a young lawyer in South Africa, he was taking a first-class train to his next job. He ended up getting kicked off this train. Many of you probably know this story. He got thrown off the train in the middle of the night and ended up sleeping on the deck of the train station for that evening. Just because of the color of his skin, they did not want him to be riding first class. Gandhi went to South Africa, not thinking especially about social justice issues but had this moment in his life when he for some unexplainable reason to him, got thrown off a train and ended up spending the night on the train station deck. I think by jumping in the deep end, we really start to understand what it is that we want to focus our lives on. This moment of obligation that we talked about before. For Gandhi it was getting kicked off the train. For many others, it is this moment when you see an injustice so great that you have to do something about it. Or in our case, it is when you see an opportunity with such promise that not doing something to take advantage of that opportunity would be an injustice in and of itself.

And so for us, for me especially, my moment of obligation was in 2002, in a refugee settlement. I had become close friends with young man named Benson Olivier. He was about my age. I was 17 and he was 18. I remember so clearly a couple of statements that he made to me. They really set the course and the foundation, the guiding words of Educate!. What he said was, “if you want to help me and if you want to help my community and if you want to help my country, (he was a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo) then help me to get an education, because with an education, I can start to solve all of these problems.” It really made a lot of sense. It resonated with me on a very deep level. I knew from that point on that because of the potential I saw within Benson and because of his concept that education could unlock that potential; I really had to do something about that, and not doing something about that would be an injustice in and of itself.  For me that was my moment of obligation.

I think for many Grinnell students, it has been wonderful to see Grinnell has given you all such an opportunity to not just sit on the side of the pool but actually jump in, test the waters, see how things go. We had yet another social hour earlier today when—sorry Melisa—with a group of Grinnell students and we went around the table, one by one, each of them talked about what they were interested in. It was not just what they were interested in. I think Boris asked them to describe what they were interested in, in two sentences and then the next question was, what are you doing about that in two sentences. Everyone had an amazing answer and doing all these incredible things with the prison system and with sustainable food and with biodiversity and the impact on culture and community surrounding, just incredible stuff going on. For one, I don’t think this is nearly as common at Amherst, a lovely college with the greatest mascot in the history of colleges—the Lord Jeff—was not nearly as common at Amherst. I think Grinnell gives you a really fortunate environment by which to really jump in the waters, so while I ended up in Uganda and had this moment of obligation while I was there, which was separate from school and separate from my education, Grinnell has given so many of you the chance to have that moment of obligation while you are in school.

In terms of jumping in the deep end, the moment of obligation is really the first step. It is what sets the course for the next steps and for what you will eventually want to be doing.  But going back to those cheesy analogies, the next cheesy analogy, I think of this moment of obligation as a seed. A seed isn't enough to create a tree. A seed is the beginning of creating a tree but it is definitely not enough. Ultimately what keeps that tree alive are all the leaves. I think of the leaves is being equivalent to all the experiences, the thousands of experiences and thousands of decisions that we make every single day. It is those decisions that really bring that moment of obligation to life and eventually if we are talking about social justice, will help solve some sort of social justice issue.  While Gandhi did not expect to be working for social justice when he went down to South Africa, eventually he obviously led a life that which made incredible changes and one of the most influential social change, social justice leaders in history.

What I would like to say is that the moment of obligation is often times really appropriate and relevant and nice, the rest is really messy. Everything that comes after it is really messy. Boris actually put it very well earlier in the week when he said, “In hindsight the narrative of someone’s life often times makes a lot of sense.” But going through that narrative, at least I think we found so far, it really does not make that much sense at all. By jumping in the deep end and really jumping into that uncertainty that we can figure out the path forward.

I just wanted to give a few examples of what this messiness looks like or at least has looked like in the context of Educate! I hope as students you can apply this to your own decisions and recognize that the narrative is not really obvious today but when you're looking back on it 5 years later as an elder alum, it seems to come together pretty well.

At Amherst, I studied biochemistry, I studied neuro-science and then they would not let me go to track practice because I had to go to a seminar so I quit neuro-science my senior year right before I was about to graduate and made up an independent biochemistry major. I was writing a thesis about the impact of insecticides on people and animals and the ecosystem; specifically whether insecticides can imitate estrogen, and all the implications of overexposure to estrogen has, such as breast cancer. One of the great ways to test out this concept is through rats. It was not the favorite part of my thesis but what ended up happening was I basically had a randomized control trial. We were talking about those earlier today, of rats that had been over ectomized, which means they were not producing estrogen and then we injected them with the insecticides and wanted to see if they demonstrated behavior associated with estrogen. Best way to do this is to put a male rat in a cage with a female rat and film it. Now, what happens if the rat has been exposed to estrogen, rats do what they do and reproduce. If the rat has not been exposed to estrogen, then nothing happens. I had something like nine treatment rats and nine controlled rats, half hour video of each, ended up being something like 18 hours of film. Thus my senior year I spent about 18 hours in the computer lab watching rat behavior on film. At some point during these 18 hours, I realized that I loved biochemistry and honestly the only reason I studied biochemistry is because I am extremely interested in it. But at some point during these 18 hours, I think I hit the tipping point and I realized for the rest of my life for 80 years, and no offense to any biochemistry or science professors in this room but for 80 years I could be studying one protein and how one protein binds to one molecule and the resulting movement that comes from that binding process. There is a chance that could be completely inconsequential in the long run. I knew that as I was watching these rats and observing their interesting behavior in that cage, I knew that I probably had to switch or had to think of what to do after college. This is my senior year, so I ended up applying to Teach for America. I have a lot of great things to say about Teach for America and I was accepted and I was about to go to teach in a school in North Carolina.

Boris will be the first one to attest to this, I was, as I like to call “busy”, and what other people like to call “flaky.” I was busy in college so I often times would forget about appointments. This was back in the day when Wendy Kopp used to call some of the accepted core members to encourage them and whatnot, so I had this phone call with Wendy Kopp, the founder for Teach for America, I had totally forgot about it. I happened to be downstairs in the basement of the library, very busy studying away and I was on a bathroom break, so I am sitting on the toilet and Wendy Kopp calls. Obviously a number I did not know, so I picked it up, “Hello this is Wendy”, "oh shit" like literally, so I was like, “Wendy can I call you right back, I am in the basement and the service is not good down here.” So I run upstairs and have a great phone call with Wendy Kopp and talked about Teach for America, what it focuses on, what my job would be like as a core member but it still did not feel quite right. I was probably going to be teaching chemistry and realized that rather than teaching chemistry, I would much rather teach kids how to change the world.

Educate! was going through some transitions and we were thinking about how we could really fulfill that statement Benson had said back in 2002, “if you help me receive an education, I can solve the problems facing my community.” How can we develop a type of education that actually executes on that concept.

So I ended up deferring Teach for America for a year just to keep my options open and graduated and pretty much went straight to Uganda after graduation and then I came back and a week after being back, I called Teach for America and said, sorry I am doing Educate! It really felt like a breath of fresh air. It was so amazing to be able to focus on these things that we care about full time.  We don’t have to worry about exams, we don’t have to worry about whatever sports, and we don’t have to worry about all of this stuff going on at college and really focus on it full time.  

I was in Boston after graduating. Luckily some crazy scientific foundation had given me a lot of money to watch those rat videos and it was more money than I needed so I had some savings from this science scholarship which helped me in the beginning while I was in Boston. So basically it was enough to get by in terms of food and in terms of rent. My office ended up being Kinko’s Store #0162 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The owner/manager of the Kinko’s Store #0162 is a guy named Dave Kennedy, who I became good friends with. He basically let me go in and use their wireless internet whenever I needed to and I occasionally bought M&M’s but it was really a one-way relationship.  In terms of food when I did not feel like cooking or did not want to buy food, I had a friend who was going to a nearby college who would sneak out food from the dining hall for me which I really appreciated and often times would eat pretty good dining hall food and a lot of dining hall food. When I needed to supplement my income, I had another friend who was working at Massachusetts General Hospital which does a lot of medical studies on patients, and often times those medical studies pay. They would always need a control group. She would hint when there was a really good medical study, one of those ones that pays a lot coming up. I would go and participate in the medical study and remember this often involved lying in FMRI and doing crazy things, answering crazy questions and whatnot. I was often times pretty tired when I went to those medical studies and when you are asleep the brain responds differently to these different stimuli that they are giving you, so it was not okay to sleep in the FMRI but often times I was tired and would fall asleep, so most studies I was able to get through but some of them I fell asleep too often that did not work out very well.

I am saying all this really with a point which is that all this happened in the course of developing Educate! And I think when we look back in hindsight on this narrative, it looks so clean. Paul Farmer’s wonderful book, "Mountains beyond Mountains," he has a great paragraph in there where he talks about working with migrant workers from Haiti when he was in somewhere in the southern United States.  At the end of the paragraph he says, “You know I really wish that my experience with those migrant workers from Haiti directly led to me starting this health organization which is now transforming healthcare in Haiti. But in reality it was not that simple.” I think in the same way, we can look at a narrative of a life and say it is so simple, it worked out so easily for that person, everything kind of fell into place.  In reality, it is really messy. You really just have to jump in and figure it out as you go, do whatever it takes, even if it means falling asleep in FMRI room.

This is the best learning experience that we could possibly have, jumping in and actually doing it and learning as we go.  I split that first year after college between Boston and Uganda, the six months in Uganda and the six months in Boston, I think I counted up one time that in 11 months, there were 450 meetings with people to learn just about what we were doing. It was from all that learning that really came a clear sense of not only the direction that I wanted Educate! to go in but also my own values, what I believe in and the question, why do you do what you do—why I do what I do. I really don’t think I could have learned that if I wasn’t in it, if I hadn’t of jumped in the deep end so of speak. I was not making a salary and whatnot, I said let’s just do it because I feel like I am doing the right thing, I hope that things will work out and they did work out. I feel extremely fortunate for all of those pieces coming together like a puzzle.

I would encourage you, when you are making these decisions, you have many different options, you are so involved in so many different things, don’t worry about finding that perfect opportunity, just jump in. Start somewhere. At first you are going to be thrashing around in the water but eventually you will figure it out and be on a really great direction. As people, we are inclined not to like uncertainty but living with uncertainty and accepting uncertainty as a part of life is one of the most important things that we can do. It is by accepting that uncertainty that comes with jumping in deep water and not knowing what is going to happen that we actually can find a great sense of conviction in terms of where we would like to go and what we would like to do in our own lives.

I did not talk about Educate! very much during this speech. We have had many conversations about Educate! and I really would love to talk more but I put this together because this is what I would have wanted someone to tell me when I graduated from Amherst. I hope this is also helpful for you all.  Thank you very much.


Interview and Highlights


Educate! is the first organization in the world to incorporate its social entrepreneurship curriculum into a national education system, specifically the national education system of Uganda.

I want to encourage all you guys to find your purpose and the way you can leverage your own opportunity to help others who haven't been as lucky. For me that means doing Educate!, for you it will probably be something else. But whatever it is, just make sure to find your purpose and take advantage of your opportunity.

Because of the potential I saw within Benson, and because of this concept that education could unlock that potential, I really had to do something about that.  And not doing something about that would be an injustice in and of itself. So for me that was my moment of obligation.

The moment of obligation is like the seed; and it's where everything begins from, but then you just have to piece everything else together from there. And, you know, the moment of obligation is definitely not enough. It is not always pretty after that moment happens.

But for me, what really keeps me going is, whenever I'm going through a challenging time, I think of some of the other social change, some of the other social justice leaders who've been through such incredibly difficult times, both in their own lives and their works, that my challenges seem just eating cake, basically. And that really, really helps. And I think that I'm fortunate to be in this position.

I think that it's a privilege to be able to do the work, and to have work that 1) just grows me personally, grows me to be able to achieve more of what I want to achieve in life, but 2) is something that gives and enriches my life in such a meaningful way. Obviously the impact on the ground is incredible and it's amazing to be a small part of it, and be a small part of the energy that we have in Uganda. But it's also really wonderful to be building a community of people around that. I love being here because I love interacting with a community of people that are interested in the stuff, and that's really fulfilling for me.

Eric's Blog Post

Telling Our Story: Educate!

By Eric W. Glustrom, Co-founder and President, Educate!

Educate! develops young leaders and entrepreneurs in Uganda by providing two years of world-class leadership and social entrepreneurship training, long-term mentorship, and practical experience starting an enterprise to help youth turn their ideas into real solutions to poverty, disease, and environmental degradation.  Educate!’s model is exponential empowerment – a long term investment in a few who will go on to impact many others.  Educate! works with 1,400 young leaders and entrepreneurs across Uganda – the next Nelson Mandela, Wangari Mathai  and Mahatma Gandhi’s of Africa.

In October 2010, the government of Uganda and the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) asked Educate! to incorporate its social entrepreneurship curriculum into the national education system.  It will reach 45,000 students per year in 2012 and be the first national social entrepreneurship curriculum of its kind in the world.

I started Educate! in 2002 after a trip to a refugee settlement in western Uganda.  It was clear that many of the youth in the settlement had great potential to solve the very same challenges that forced them to flee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Uganda.  I asked what I could do to help in their journey to bring peace and stability back to the DRC.  They asked for only an education.  Their words inspired the foundational concept on which Educate! is built: education can, and must, develop a new generation capable of solving the greatest challenges of our time.  Although Educate!’s approach has changed over the past 9 years since I met our first students, the mission has remained the same.

In 2004 as a sophomore at Amherst College, my friend and classmate, Boris Bulayev (now Educate!’s Executive Director), walked into my room and announced he wanted to become more involved in Educate!.  We’ve run the organization together ever since.  Realist, idealist; vision, operations – however you want to break down our partnership (and oftentimes the lines are quite blurred), together we’ve created something that neither of us could do on our own.

This spring, we were both extremely fortunate (and surprised!) to receive Grinnell College’s Young Innovator for Social Justice Award.  The funds from the award will be used to help launch a new evolution of our program in 2012 – the National Experiential Entrepreneurship Program.  The goal of the program is to help schools across the country that are teaching the curriculum we wrote for the government to develop their students into young entrepreneurs and leaders.  The program is being developed to reach every school in the country and set a model of education from which countries around the world can learn. Next year alone we will work with an additional 1,500 young entrepreneurs and leaders by providing mentorship, training, and practical experience to help youth start a business or initiative to solve poverty, disease, violence, disempowerment, or environmental degradation.

Boris and I also chose to give the personal money awarded by Grinnell back to Educate!.  Some of those funds will be used to support the 1,400 youth we work with currently, the rest will go towards specific initiatives that will help increase the sustainability of the organization in the long run.

We are both grateful and eager for the opportunity to come to campus in just a week, to meet students, alumni, faculty, and staff.  Because we were students when we started Educate!, we feel a strong sense of solidarity with other students interested in working for social justice.  We look forward to learning more about the social justice initiatives Grinnell students are starting (or planning to create) and exploring the different resources and opportunities offered on campus, such as the Rosenfield Program.  It will be a wonderful time for us to reflect on Educate!’s role in the greater social justice movement while surrounded by passionate young innovators eager to make the world a better place.  I’m sure there will be many inspiring conversations – thank you Grinnell!

Educate! Blog Post

2012 Accomplishments- Educate!

By Eric W. Glustrom, Co-founder and president, and Boris Bulayev, Co-founder and executive director, Educate!

This past year has been instrumental for Educate!. We have used funds from the Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize to help launch our new 100% model, which has been a huge leverage for us.

With our fundraising and management costs in 2012 being generously funded by Grinnell and other major investors, 100 percent of donors' investments go directly to develop the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs!

Also in 2012, the Educate! leadership and entrepreneurship curriculum is now being implemented by the government of Uganda in the country's national education system to empower 25,000 young students across the country.

Furthermore, this past year, a consortium of the United Nations International Labour Organisation and World Bank (the Youth Employment Network) began an evaluation of Educate!'s program. At this stage in our development, there is no more powerful testimonial than strong evidence to scale the model of education we provide across Uganda and around the world.

When we met in Amherst College in 2004, we decided to collaborate on our shared goal of what Educate! could become. One of the primary issues we found was that youth in Uganda were spending 13 of the most formative years of their lives in schools that forced them to memorize the exact facts that would be on the national exam. Though the students were being prepared for the exam, the curriculum stifled creativity, leadership, and the desire to create change.

For example, every high school graduate in Uganda can tell you the regions of Germany because it is one of the questions on the national exam. Stories are told of teachers who make their kids sit under a tree for asking too many questions about why things are the way they are. The education system in Uganda was implemented by the colonial government to train civil servants. It seemed to us, and to anyone with whom we spoke, that such a standardized, rote-memorization based education system unfortunately would only bring up a new generation skilled at maintaining the status quo.

Our model of exponential empowerment, or of a long-term investment in the youth of Uganda, is a breakaway from the current debilitating curriculum so that the students can positively impact others throughout their lives. Exponential empowerment supports and encourages Ugandan students to realistically survey their communities and attack the problems surrounding them by using their education, dedication and skills learned with Educate!.

Today Educate! works with 3,600 diverse young leaders and entrepreneurs across Uganda. We truly believe that the strength of Educate! lies within the individual power and ingenuity of our Scholars. For example, our Scholar Joseph worked with his Educate! Mentor to develop an affordable fuel alternative in his school's science laboratory. He is in the process of getting his new fuel nationally certified, and intends to create a manufacturing plant that will employ members of his community.

Lillian, an Educate! alum, has started a successful fair trade social enterprise that employs over 60 women affected by HIV/AIDS to make and sell beautiful paper bead jewelry. And, Educate! Scholar Jimmy, holds entrepreneurship seminars for members of his community to pass on the knowledge he learned through Educate!.

These are the real world solutions to real world problems, solutions that are made possible through an education that fosters and encourages students to look at their world outside the box and to utilize their education.

Thank you Grinnell College for your belief in our vision to develop young leaders in Africa and take Educate! to the next level!

Eric and Boris

Additional Information on Educate!

Educate! empowers 1,400 youth across Uganda, where over half of the population is under the age of 15. The organization provides social entrepreneurship training, long-term mentorship, and access to capital to help youth create and lead solutions to poverty, disease, violence, environmental degradation, and the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, 83 percent. The model is exponential empowerment – investing long-term in youth so they can positively impact many others. The government of Uganda recently asked Educate! to incorporate its social entrepreneurship course into the national education system. It will reach 45,000 youth annually and be the first national social entrepreneurship curriculum in the world. Educate!’s work to empower Uganda’s youth aims to help the country develop a generation capable of determining their own future and defining progress for their time.