Henry May started CoSchool with the belief that Colombia’s leadership could be rebuilt if you begin with its children.
Henry went to Colombia in 2012 to work for Teach for Colombia, and found an education system that was frozen in time—in no way doing its part in forming the leaders of tomorrow. At that time, Colombia was ranked lowest among 65 countries in developing soft skills such as creativity and problem solving. Students also underperformed tremendously in math, science, and literacy.
While combating these educational setbacks with students between the ages of 13-18, Henry came up with a process:
Students work together to identify a problem in their community that they care about and design a project to solve it. With the support and guidance of key mentors, the students turn their project into reality. While making real progress on important issues in their community, students learn the skills schools don’t equip them with, skills like perseverance, collaboration, teamwork, and problem solving. More importantly, students learn about themselves, how they can be leaders, and how they can transform their communities.
When CoSchool came to Uncharted’s 2015 Institute, the team was creating impact—but it needed big help in terms of operations, processes, and prioritization. They had just won a career-making contract with the public sector of Colombia. But as Henry explained, “We were fired up and we were passionate, but we weren’t really sure what do next.”
The value that CoSchool gained from Uncharted had two layers. The first was emotional, and the second was practical.
Uncharted was transformative for Henry as an entrepreneur: “Uncharted helped me develop as a better leader, as a more human leader, helped me to come back to Earth and realize that this thing is going to take years and a lot of hard work. It was a good exercise to check my ego. It was a good exercise in realizing what is important and who I am,” credits Henry.
Uncharted helped CoSchool secure a $30k Kiva loan. (The average size of a Kiva loan is $400.) This loan allowed them to grow their team and hire five new people. While at Uncharted, Henry also met mentor Jerry Colonna, a former investment banker at JP Morgan, whom Henry called “one of the most important people in CoSchool’s history.”Jerry helped Henry build an investment deck, personally mentored Henry, and invested in CoSchool himself.
Uncharted also introduced Henry to Gayle Young, former CTCO at Wikimedia Foundation. Culture is one of the strongest components of CoSchool, and Henry attributes that to Gayle. Uncharted also introduced CoSchool to David Sudduth, a financial architect who created a financial and accounting structure that delivers valuable and timely financial information on past results, as well as gives the team the ability to make sound strategic decisions based on accurate financial projections. Another valuable connection was with CEO Hugh Bernardi Jr; this relationship yielded personal development for Henry, business model refinement, and strategic direction. Lastly, Uncharted introduced Henry to David Kyle, former Chief Investment Officer at Acumen Fund. Henry remarked, “David Kyle has been a constant source of inspiration and solidarity for CoSchool.” Anytime the CoSchool team doesn’t know what to do next, Henry picks up the phone and calls David.
Today, CoSchool is a serious voice in Colombia’s education system. They are commanders in building collective leadership in the youth of Colombia and Latin America. They’re in a position they have been preparing for for the past couple of years—edging towards sustainable impact. Working with public and private schools, universities, and companies, they run three distinct programs for primary and secondary students, teachers, and professionals. Their programs range in length from one to two days, to six months. To date, their team of 13 employees has trained 1,200 teachers from nearly 100 different schools. CoSchool has given over 7,500 students the opportunity learn about themselves, leadership, and how to transformtheir communities and country.
“Before we were a couple of guys and girls with a crazy idea…and now we are a strong brand with a strong culture and are ready for more.” – Henry