A few months ago, T-Mobile asked teenagers with community action plans to reach out for help. The wireless carrier heard back from hundreds—330 to be precise. On Monday, the telecom company announced it had selected 25 teen-driven projects for its “Changemaker Challenge” that it would assist in conjunction with partner Ashoka, a nonprofit that promotes community action and social entrepreneurship. Another five proposals from T-Mobile employees and their families were also selected for support.
The winners included Peerlift, an online service launched last September to help kids from disadvantaged high schools improve their chances of getting into college, and Badge Up, a Boston teen’s vision of creating spaces where urban kids could meet with police officers to defuse tensions.
Founders of each of the 30 chosen projects will be flown to Seattle next month for a two-day workshop at T-Mobile’s (TMUS) headquarters focused on mentorship and skills development. T-Mobile says it will supply the groups with free devices and seed funding. The eligibility requirement was that the projects were developed by children aged 13 to 23.
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The effort expands on T-Mobile’s brand image of forcing change in the mobile industry. The company has attracted more new customers over the past five years than competitors Verizon (VZ), AT&T (T), and Sprint (S) combined with a strategy of seeking to overthrow consumer-unfriendly practices like two-year contracts. The company ran ads during the Super Bowl touting the power of young people and ending with the tagline: “Change Starts Now. Are You With Us?”
“I am blown away and personally inspired by how this generation of youth is motivated to find solutions to issues in their communities by stepping up and taking action,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a statement. “They’ve dreamed up some big ideas and we want to do everything we can to help them bring their incredible dreams to life!”