Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

What Makes Your Soul Pop?

By Glenton Davis, Founder & Executive Director of Soul Pop U.

“What Makes Your Soul Pop?” This is the question I ask others and myself everyday. The process through which I have found and acted upon the answers has been life changing. You may ask, “How does a soul…pop?” The soul pops when it is aligned with its higher purpose, its reason for existing and contributing to this world. Further, living and acting in line with your higher purpose for the betterment of others is, to me, the essence of making your soul pop. This ongoing process is one to which I have committed my life at an early age. While my life and purpose thus far are only twenty-five years in the making, the heart of my story begins at Yale University, where I studied economics, but lived for music.

Music has always been my lifeblood. I asked my mother for a piano when I was four years old, and have been studying those eighty-eight keys ever since. Voice lessons followed at the age of seven. A foray into the entertainment business during my adolescence proved to me that my spirit belongs to song, so it only made sense that a community like Yale, rich with intellectual, creative and musical opportunities, would nurture my love for music and performance. It was my tenure as Musical Director of the a cappella ensemble the Yale Alley Cats and member of the Yale Whiffenpoofs that first exposed me to the power of young role models spreading song. In those groups I had the chance to share my love of a cappella music with children, families, dignitaries, and entire communities around the world. What continually struck me, though, regardless of where we young chorus men found ourselves on the planet, was the inspiration and fun – the core connections – we were facilitating for our audiences. They were astounding! The power of a cappella musings and the Yale brand had come together to help shape the lives of people around the world. From these beginnings, I now work tirelessly to find the best ways to marry my passions for music, for song, and for entertainment in a way that is uplifting and empowering to youth around the world, to inspire them to achieve their full potential.

As social entrepreneurs, we all can agree that passion is the seed to change. However, it is imperative to remember that we all also need the skills to grow passion into action, into power. I chose to build my skill toolbox on Wall Street after college, working for the Chief Investment Officer of a global asset management firm. There is no education better than sitting in the front row of a financial meltdown, watching the stock market lose around sixty percent of its value from its boom cycle highs. The stresses of this experience gave me the much-needed know-how of execution, time management, discipline, thick skin, and stamina. Trust me. You will need inordinate amounts of all of these things in your entrepreneurial pursuits.

It is curious to look back on my Wall Street experience, because it was not actually the pursuit of my current venture that guided my choice to leave. A musical success on the Canadian pop charts finally lit the fire underneath me to throw everything at my passions, to work to lead a life where I am in control, a life that is fully mine. Touring Canada and around the Northeastern U.S., I had the chance to spend some time with educators and students. I learned so much from these conversations beyond core needs in the classroom and in the hallways. I gleaned what many of us would expect to hear about today’s middle and high school student bodies: educators complained that there was no way to actually get through to many of their students while to same students complained of being bored and tired of being lectured. A look at supplemental education – if any – being brought to schools, revealed what I think is missing from children’s lives all over the world: parent and educator friendly content that makes their souls pop. What content would make a child’s soul pop? To me, the answer is simple: content children can relate to. With Soul Pop U, I feel confident that by marrying entertainment with empowerment, we have found the content to encourage tomorrow’s leaders to let their souls pop today.

Soul Pop U is a nonprofit organization whose mission it is to reconnect art, culture, and entrepreneurship with schools and communities on a national and global scale. Our organization is unique because this objective is achieved by sponsoring some of the best and brightest emerging artists in the entertainment industry, sending them into schools and communities where they offer motivational, educational presentations and assemblies that introduce middle and high school students to the entertainment industry while inspiring them to achieve their full potential. Soul Pop U’s sponsored artists are not only revered for their musical superiority, but are also extolled for their academic, professional, and civic accomplishments – making them true role models for our leaders of tomorrow.

The success we have experienced in just six months of operation proves that when given the right tools and the right medium, students are willing – and ready – to make their own souls pop. To date, Soul Pop U has had the privilege of empowering over 2,000 students across four states and even internationally. The true power of Soul Pop U’s mission and programs lies in our commitment to engage and empower young leaders beyond our stays with them on school campuses. We foster ongoing mentoring relationships with students through social media and Soul Pop U sponsored communication (e.g. email, telephone, and online chats). Students receive mentoring from our artists in real time on issues spanning art, entrepreneurship, education, and responsible living. For its work, Soul Pop U has also received the fiscal sponsorship of the New York Foundation for the Arts. To have the partnership and confidence of the country’s preeminent arts advocacy foundation is a true testament to Soul Pop U’s strength and global potential.

The summer has given the organization the opportunity to continue to refine our programs and gear up for a rewarding fall, where we will keep enriching the students we have already encountered, and will expand our program to more students in more diverse places. We also continue to build on a successful fundraising campaign to create and endow the Soul Pop Creative Entrepreneur Award, granting at least one academically and musically accomplished college senior per year a financial grant with which to launch a creative career in the entertainment business as a young entrepreneur as well as performer. What excites me so much about the Creative Entrepreneur Award is that Soul Pop U now has the ability to engage and empower youth from around the world through the most important stages of their development. Our programs can make a difference in a child’s life from the fifth grade until the end of college, and well into his or her professional career as a creative entrepreneur. To me, that is passion. That is power. That is how to make a soul pop.

With these goals in mind, there are ways to get involved with Soul Pop U’s mission. Visit the organization’s website at www.soulpopuniversity.com, and feel free to reach out to us over email at [email protected] We continue to look for more private and corporate partners, as well as members of the community who may help us broaden our scope and impact with schools around the country and the globe. Volunteers willing to help us spread the power of Soul Pop U’s mission and programs, through word of mouth, community outreach, and strategic alliances would help us achieve so much more, so much faster. With a consistent and robust operating budget to support our ever-growing roster of artists, I know that Soul Pop U will create a palpable impact for the long term, engaging and empowering a global community of tomorrow’s leaders to begin making their dreams a reality today.

Looking back on the last six months, I realize that establishing and growing this social enterprise has brought me more life events, experiences, and lessons than I have had through all of my schooling. The ups, the downs, the good, the bad, and the indifferent have all become a part of Soul Pop U’s story and my own personal story. The biggest lesson I continue to learn – and one that I think is crucial to achieving success as a social entrepreneur – is to define your vision, see that vision in front of you, and commit to turning your thoughts into something tangible. No matter what. There will undoubtedly be roadblocks along the way. Some will feel larger than life, as though they cannot be moved and you cannot find a way around them. With time, learn to be strong like steel, to keep your higher purpose for change, for action, burning bright in the forefront of your mind. It will not always be easy, and it will not always feel good. Trust that with committed persistence, you will manifest tomorrow for others what you see today. With this mindset firmly ingrained into your purpose and into you, the only possible outcome for your inspired idea is to make it, and your soul, pop.

For more information, please visit www.soulpopuniversity.com, or feel free to contact Glenton Davis of Soul Pop U directly at [email protected]

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