Photo by Nicole Jevons
When was the last time you met a group of teenagers that were eager to learn? Who listen intently in lectures and get excited to work on complicated projects? In the IAC Eitanim program this happens every month with fascinating meetings where Israeli-American and Jewish-American teens connect to each other, strengthen their identity, bond with Israel and develop ideas and solutions to current issues.
The deep connection to Israel is done via hands-on project-based learning that is all about Israel, our cool and exciting start-up nation. There are IAC Eitanim programs all across the US, each group chooses 3 out of 5 suggested projects. Seattle Eitanim chose to concentrate on developing activism tools, that can be harnessed for any good cause but specifically to help students answer BDS activity in college campuses, improving the Israeli tourism website and the “Memory in the living room” project – connecting youth to the Holocaust memories.
The monthly meetings include learning and working on the selected projects, as well as hearing interesting professional speakers. Seattle Eitanim participants were fortunate to enjoy generous community cooperation that enabled visits in local Hi-tech companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google and more. The final project demonstration was held at the Paul Allen institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle. The CEO and Computer Science professor, Oren Etzioni, engaged with the curious teenagers in a fascinating discussion. Oren encouraged the kids to start working on their ideas now, since it’s never too early to start…
After the lectures, each group gave a professional demo, including a sales pitch, slides, mock-ups and videos. Each group selected a different approach for example a designated You-Tube channel to feature survivor’s stories, a cellular app that can show a simulation of famous Holocaust hiding place like Ann’s Frank house using Google 360 technology. At the end of the demo, the presenters answer questions from the “investors” and receive feedback.
Professional presentation for the final project. Photo by Nicole Jevons
To fit the busy schedule of high schoolers, the program is built so that project work is done almost entirely during meetings. Gavin Farac, 9th grade says: “Usually we talked about ideas we had on Whatsapp and then worked on them during the meeting. I made some friends in the program and I plan to return next year”. This is the second year of Eitanim in Seattle, last year the program was run by the mentors Yuval Hamudot and Eyal Inbar.
This year the mentors are Natalie Wells and Zohar Raz, who have a surprisingly similar background. Both graduated from the same high school in Haifa, Israel, both studied in the Technion and both started their careers in Intel and later at Microsoft as project managers. Perhaps it’s the similar background, or the extensive knowledge and commitment they both share, but their chemistry was instant. “I salute Zohar that also has a full-time job” says Natalie when she speaks of the preparation before each session. Zohar says, “Natalie is a great partner, she completes me in many ways”. Nicole Jevons, a student-volunteer from “Mishelanu”, the IAC student program, also participated as a T.A, photographer and helper.
It’s interesting to hear what the young people had to say at the end of the program, like real hi-tech people they were most impressed by the benefits and freebies, but they also made friendships and learned a lot, especially from the different speakers:
Gavin Farac, 9th grade: “I mostly remember the speaker that talked about the elevator pitch and how to introduce your idea to potential investors (Asaf Ronen). I remember the story about Bill Gates that drank sewer water. It was cool and interesting. The coolest place we visited was Microsoft. They had an interesting tour.”
Yuval Raz, 9th grade: “I liked working with people and I enjoyed the visit to Amazon, they had a nice meeting room and an amazing view”.
Rotem Haba, 9th grade: “I mainly remember Tzahi Vaisfeld’s lecture about marketing to a target audience. The visit to Facebook was the best, we got really good vegan food.”
Gali Aloni, 9th grade: “I also remember Tzahi’s lecture and the visit to Go-daddy”.
Shira Fainberg, 10th grade: “I liked visiting the different companies and hear all the speakers talk, I mostly remember Sharon Raz’z talk about the psychology of groups”.
Eli Gunderman, 9th grade: “I really liked the speaker that talked about how to get to know your customers (Eyal Inbar) and the most fun was at Microsoft (played Xbox) or at T-mobile (got t-shirts)”.
Neomi Leites, 8th grade: “I liked the visit to Go-Daddy the most and to learn about presentations and working with people in groups”.
Adi Aloni, 11th grade: I loved the group challenges we had in the beginning of every session. Once we needed to decide which items to bring on a mission to the moon. I also liked the visit to Microsoft. We played games there and got free drinks.”
Eitanim – Learn, Play and Connect. Photo by Nicole Jevons
Sounds interesting, challenging and fun? No need to wait till next year, summer is a great opportunity to try Eitanim with a whole week of innovations and entrepreneurship in a Hackathon style summer camp. The hackathon will be held in L.A. at the end of July, for a special rate of only $350, register now.
A special thank you goes to the Seattle Eitanim 2017 mentors: Natalie Wells and Zohar Raz and to the wonderful guest speakers and generous hosts:
Yoram Yaacovi, Rob Jacobs, Assaf Ronen, Sharon Raz, Eyal Inbar, Tzahi Weisfeld, Oren Etzioni, Barak Cohen, Moti Shaked, Erez Haba, Eta Ghanooni, and Yossi Levanoni
The Eitanim program is a part of the memorial legacy honoring Major Eitan Belachsan, that was killed in action in an IDF activity in Lebanon in 1999. Major Eitan’s unit was ambushed and Eitan and 2 other officers, Liraz Tito and David Granit lost their lives. Shoham Nicolet, one of the founders of the IAC organization, initiated the Eitanim program in memory of his comrade in arms