Fulbright Scholar from Brooklyn a bright ‘Lite’ for Memphis rebirth

December 6, 2018 Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Sam Hasty, who spent three years in the Teach For America program in Memphis, is one of the founding partners of a program that develops entrepreneurship and 21st century skills for low-income students in an eight-year pipeline of support.

A native of Brooklyn who attended Poly Prep and played varsity baseball at Rutgers, Hasty helped build LITE (Let’s Innovate Through Education) while serving in the corps of TFA in Memphis, Tennessee.

In 2016 Forbes Magazine named LITE one of the 20 ideas that could change the world.

Hasty spent a year as Fulbright Scholar in Poland, researching entrepreneurship and financing structures for new businesses in a country that, he says, spends less on education than the U.S., but gets better results.

“I wanted to understand how they were creating such skilled workers, and what was being done to turn skill into economic growth and high paying jobs,” he said.

Returning to Memphis after the Fulbright year, he has focused on creating a LITE model adaptable to other cities. Meanwhile, the results of LITE have been “a beacon and blessing in Memphis,” according to Michael Scruggs, community activist and member of LITE board. “This kid from Brooklyn deserves the key to the city.”

LITE provides seed funding to minority students at age 17 as they launch businesses through a 4-month incubator and develop critical 21st-century skills like design thinking, branding, basic accounting, customer discovery, social media marketing and pitching.

In college, LITE matches Innovation Fellows (alumni of the incubator) with paid internships and pays to support students through a team-based prototyping curriculum in collaboration with University of Memphis’ Crews Center for Entrepreneurship.

After college, LITE matches alumni with mentoring, coaching, and access to capital networks.

Since 2014, 2,500 students have participated in their workshops, and 179 ventures have been launched through the intensive four-month incubator. 92% of students showed significant growth in 21st-century career skills. 100% of LITE students have been accepted to 4-year colleges and 97.9% are on track to graduate with higher education credentials. As of the last tracking, LITE students averaged $120,000 in merit scholarships to college.

LITE was named one of five most innovative grassroots organizations driving change by The Atlantic Magazine and Allstate (2018) and was named one of the five most innovative ideas in teaching by Teach For America (2015). 

Support LITE: https://support.litememphis.com/campaign/2018-eoy/c211708