Hardy Farrow BA ’13 values dreaming big. “You live a self-fulfilling life,” he says. “If you dream big, you will achieve big.”
Farrow’s mantra guides his work as founder and executive director of LITE Memphis (Let’s Innovate Through Education). “LITE Memphis equips minority students to be future entrepreneurs by teaching them how to pitch ideas, learn how to take risks, adapt, fail, and pivot,” says Farrow. “We help them find internships in college, and we have a venture capital fund to help them launch businesses in their own community.”
In just its first few years, the program is having a quantifiable impact: Fifty students a year launch ideas through LITE’s six-month incubator; 96 percent of participating students were proficient in entrepreneurial skills by the end of the program; and each LITE student receives an average of $260,000 in merit scholarship offers.
In recognition of Farrow’s achievements, Forbes recently named him as one of the top “30 Under 30” in the field of education.
Farrow says he got the idea for LITE Memphis in his classroom at Power Center Academy, the Memphis charter school where he taught as a Teach for America Corps member after graduating from GW.
“I felt like a lot of my students were being taught skills that they weren’t going to use in their lives and they were disinvested from their education,” says Farrow. “People do best when they do what they are passionate about, so I created a program to tap into their passions.”
People also do best when they have the right tools and support, he says. “When I was teaching, I didn’t see equity in the opportunities my students were getting,” he says. “My role is to make sure that kids who grow up in impoverished communities have the exact same shot as I did to graduate from college and then have the same opportunities I have had.”
Being surrounded at GW by fellow ambitious students who were trying to change the world has been another factor in his success. “The campus life, my extracurricular activities, and being in DC all combined to make me rethink what I was capable of,” he says. “It made me willing to take risks and helped me be a more confident person.”
Farrow says that he wakes up each morning excited about the work ahead. “Every day there is a new challenge that I have to innovate around,” says Farrow. “I love knowing that the work I do has a huge impact on kids, their life trajectories, and their own communities.”
While he is humbled by the Forbes accolade, Farrow hopes the “30 Under 30” list looks different in the years to come. “When I looked at that list of people in Forbes, I saw that they are mainly white males,” he says. “If LITE does what it’s supposed to do, I hope that my students are the ones getting these awards in 10 years. That will reflect an equitable America.” —Michele Lynn