Nurturing Global High School Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley with Julie Song
Spirit of Math Podcast Episode #11
This week Kim Langen and Nathan Langen, interview Julie Song, a former NY teacher, who while teaching at a public school during the week, launched her first education program in Brooklyn, NY – a “learn-through-play” language immersion class on the weekends. Within a few short months, the program became a raving success among parents and students.
Encouraged and emboldened by the experience, Julie went on to complete her studies at Teachers College, Columbia University and then operate a learning center in South Korea. In Asia, she founded a Success Academy that helps students discover, experience and unleash their inner potentials as innovators. She returned to her roots in Silicon Valley to launch GATSVI to help students learn 21st century core skills through entrepreneurship and innovation. In 2019 summer, she coordinated a pre-collegiate research and innovation program at University of California, Irvine.
To find out more about GATSVI and GATI visit: https://www.gatsvi.org/
About Julie Song
Julie Song is the founder of GATSVI (Gifted and Talented Silicon Valley Innovators) and Director of GATI (Gifted And Talented Institute) based in California, USA.She has always valued global education and innovation and nurtures high school entrepreneurs so they may impact the world.
Welcome back to another episode of releasing the genius where we
interview extraordinary people. We find out exactly how they
got there, so our next guest Julie song she was able to
present at our releasing the genius conference last year. The
spirit of math conference as well, and we thought, OK, this
is a perfect person.
Becase we need to get her on here to explain what she does.
So Julie song is a former New York City public school teacher
and she is the founder of GATSVI, which is the gifted and
talented Silicon Valley Innovators and director of
GATI, the gifted and talented Institute. She has always valued
global education and innovation. Once teaching at a public school
during the week she launched her first education program in
Brooklyn, NY. A learn-through-play language immersion class on
the weekends. Within a few short months, the program became a
raving success among parents and students. Encouraged and
emboldened by the experience Julie went on to complete her.
Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University and then
operate a Learning Center in South Korea. In Asia, she
founded a success Academy that help students discover,
experience and unleash their inner potentials as innovators.
She returned to her roots in Silicon Valley to launch GATSVI
to launch to help students learn 21st century core skills through
entrepreneurship and innovation. In 2019 summer she coordinated a
pre collegiate research and innovation program at University
of California, Irvine. Now, I know that since then you’ve done
some. Other things, so first I just want to say thank you for
joining this podcast. This is great to have you here and I
just wanted to say that first of all I I meant Julie. Last year
when we were are actually a couple years ago, but last year
she came to our conference and then what she says and what
she’s done is just incredible. As you listen to her she started
as a teacher and she has been able to go beyond just a regular
teacher Ann. She saw the needs that were out there. The
possibilities. That were out there and she has changed the
world for for many kids because of this and she’s also not just
change the world for the kids, but I think also she’s allowing
other people to see that there are other types of possibilities
with a variety of different types of programs that you can
think of that’s taking us into this new world coming forward
and her insight and her foresight. I think Julie is just
incredible because. You have set many of these students up for
success. The world has changed massively over the last several
months. An people are now starting to talk about much more
well. What is the innovation? What is the entrepreneurship and
so on? But you saw this along time ago before that, and so I
like to just first of all say welcome to you. And yeah, and
this is great to have you here. I also I think it would be
really nice to hear from you about what else.
You are doing right now and to share how you why. Why did you
start this as well? So first of all, what you’re doing and why.
OK, well thank you. First of all to inviting me an I know Nathan
just introduced me as one of the extraordinary people you guys
invite. But I mean I’m an ordinary person who helps you
know, raise extraordinary people. That’s how I like to,
you know, view myself an I want to encourage other people that
you don’t have to have, you know Kim or Nathans geniuses to to be
able to be on this release the genius show. So I mean.
Yes I will. I would go ahead and talk about what I do now, but
before that I just wanted to say, you know, release the
genius is really what rings true to my Koran. What I believe what
I believe in and what I do so you know when they can first
mention releasing the genius. I instantly loved the name right?
Because it really describes my job and my goal as a CEO of
given account Institute. And you
know, Gatsby. And a program director of several
precollegiate programs is to actually help students release
their geniuses. Gatti was also built on this belief that when
every student discovers and releases his or genius, no
matter how young they are, this world will be a better place. So
that’s how you know I started these organizations and
programs, and we encourage our students not to be an isolated
genius. But to become stronger together and make a bigger
impact in the world together. So before we start every
program, my partner, David, always challenges or students
to imagine how the world will be a different place if Trump
and Xi Jinping had met at a program like ours, you know,
when they were young.
And if they learn the power of combining their geniuses and
releasing them together positively, or world, may you
know look little different, so you know, that’s where I stand
where Gaddy and guess we stand. And I mean I have a lot to say
about gifted and talented Nishan. Now I would like to shut
some light on, you know, the gnu perspective on gifted and
talented Ness. But you know what? Yeah, could you tell us
what your programs?
Hard like what exactly happens when the kids come and that
would be great. I think for our viewers, just just to understand
what you’re doing. Right, right, right? So? So we have our major
programs take place in Silicon Valley through Gatsby, which
stand for gifted and talented Silicon Valley Innovators. And
the other program at UCI.
We have other programs, but these are the main main programs
that we run at the time.
And to go into gaseous and entrepreneurship program for
high school students.
Right, the Silicon Valley is the hub of startups, and it really
embodies the value of entrepreneurship. And when I
came back to Silicon Valley from Asia three years ago, I thought
hard how I can release my genius right, and how I can put my
talent to use for the world of Education. And, you know?
Having this, having had some frustration and classroom
settings, you know, like how can I provide students the right
stimulus, right? Motivation and context so that they can
navigate their own learning and future success. And I realized
entrepreneurship education is the right tool for them.
Also, you know coming to the Bay Area, I was encouraged to be
more entrepreneurial myself and start something from zero, and I
learned so much myself that I wanted to share this experience
with. You know, the students. If if I had this kind of experience
early on, I think I would be at a different place. Not that I’m
complaining about where I am.
And I also met a lot of great people. You know who
are eager to share their geniuses with the the future
generation of entrepreneurs. So I decided to start an
entrepreneurship program for high school students with
these great mentors and people. So the kids come
from around Silicon Valley. Or do they come from where
do they come from?
Most of them came most of the brilliant people came
They all came from all over the world, you know.
From Canada from Korea, China, Italy we had. I mean, I’m just
talking about Gatsby. I mean if we talk about Gatti at UCI,
we even had students from Turkey, Burkina Faso.
Where else blinking? Else really neat. So do they get
together so they come? They actually go there. I guess
this year you did it virtually, is that right?
Yeah, we did. So they get to meet each other as well. Is
there a qualifications or what happens? Sorry you can tell us
qualifications and what happens when they actually get
there. What is this entrepreneurship look like and
who helps them with it?
Great question. So a lot of students these days
surprisingly have a lot of great. I’m not surprisingly
that they have a good idea and they all have great
ideas, but surprisingly they want to start businesses. I
think entrepreneurship became like a buzzword
around the world.
Everyone applies to our program thinking that they had the
greatest idea. Like you know this tech idea. This app idea?
Oh, it’s so can Valley. So I’m going to launch a tech business
and they come to our program.
And then share their ideas. They end up developing their ideas
with their peers, make it presentable, they actually
their. Their goal is to pitch their business idea to real
investors for real investment and launch a real business. Now
we we emphasize this realness because businesses reality a lot
of high school entrepreneurs come go to these
entrepreneurship programs thinking that they’re just going
to put this on their resume. But will we believe?
About entrepreneurship is that that real hardcore?
Reality check you know? I mean, yeah, that’s really that’s so
important and I think one of the things that we’re looking at two
in terms of.
Open countries are not just developing countries, but around
the world. For for high school is how do we integrate
businesses and business people and real businesses and business
people? Then on the high school range and this is for me one of
my passions is what do we do because we have to change the
thinking of high school kids. So what kind of ideas could you
perhaps tell high schools around the world like what could they
do? How are you getting these businesses integrating with
these kids? So it’s real world.
What what are you doing that’s different like what?
How are you doing this?
OK, this is secret to our business. I’m just kidding. No,
it’s not. It’s really not so. We emphasize Silicon Valley mindset
a lot, which is, you know, paying it forward a lot of our
mentors are willing to share a lot of their own experiences.
You know, a lot of their failures that they they’ve had,
so that you know these students can learn from them as well. Now
how our program is different from just learning the process
of preneurship? I mean, sorry launching a business or.
Just learning a lot of theories is that first of all they
themselves have to learn how to get out, get out of their
comfort zone, and earn their first dollar. You know, with
their idea, I mean oftentimes they think about great ideas,
but they don’t know how to make that first dollar with their
business. And then at the end of the day, no matter what kind of
business you found, whether it’s a for profit or nonprofit
organization, you have to be able to sustain yourself, right?
So we do help them think outside of that that.
Rigid framework of entrepreneurship that they are
exposed to and say OK go out and raise this money with your
idea and we give multiple mission even before the program
start and they have amazing testimonies of their missions.
You know then making over $800 out of lollipops. You know it’s
just, you know they. They then thinking of strategies
themselves. What can they sell, you know, is it just the product
that they have to focus on our or is it the story that they
that you have to create? So I mean, that’s just one way that
we help students kind of open their eyes. I guess in the light
of entrepreneurship, real entrepreneurship and they
pitched a veces. How nice are the VCs to the kids? You know? I
think they really high school students definitely have
advantage because I mean it’s
not. Like Shark Tank where they get smashed and you know but but
our students do expect to get smashed OK but even before
sending them in front of the investors and BCS we just go
through succession of critical like a criticism like really
harsh criticism so that they wake up and they say Oh shoot
this is not going to work so we pivot, pivot pivot and that
pivoting process is really really hard for them initially
because it’s almost like killing their own babies.
You know I had this idea. You are saying my air pod is not
gonna, you know, succeed. So I’m gonna move on to let’s say a
coffee business, you know. But you know, we really encourage
him to think beyond product but think of impact that they can
make as high school students. I mean they can’t compete with
you, know, these giant Silicon Valley companies on these
product ideas, but they can definitely appeal to societal
cause, right? I mean they their impact as high school students
as Gensys? Are completely different from what the startups
adult startups can do, so we encourage them to think about
what they can do right now from where they are. So are there any
maybe? Social impact businesses that you wanted to
highlight from your program that that that your students
OK, well to begin, so we’re not really social impact on their
ship program, but but we don’t discourage it. So with that
said, this year you know a group of students founded
biodegradable straw company. OK, nice right? But the business
model there isn’t to just get the most profit out of selling
straws, but what they’re trying to sell. I don’t know if I can
say this. What they’re trying to sell to these businesses is that
the the the image, the branding they collaborated with. Another
business in Bangladesh. So we had a participant from
Bangladesh who already had like water water filter prototype. So
you know this this US based straw company partnered with the
Bangladesh startup bounded by our our member.
And that you know what, whatever profit we make out of these
straws will donate to your company so that you can purify
water for your communities. So that’s the kind of yeah that is
really cool. And it got a lot of great feedback from actually the
main DC we had. So partnerships that are really powerful. And
that’s a global partnership. So so if you were like a big part
of what you’ve just talked
about. Is the mentor ship and the people who you attract to
this? If someone wanted to start this somewhere else in this
world, what would they? How would they tracked these
mentors? How did you do that? ’cause I think this is key to
what you’ve done is is pretty incredible to get some really
good people there working with you too. What did you do?
OK, so I think having people is important, right? Good people we
there’s is a term that we use all the time faceless leaders.
So I mean no good curriculum is important I guess, but not as
important as having a lot of faces. Leaders who are willing
to become true mentors. These to these people. But what’s great
about these days is that virtual connections and interactions are
becoming a norm.
Before people were hesitant to connect over the Internet
and, you know, be mentor that way. So now I think it
became more scalable and more possible no matter
where you are. What parts of the world you are to start?
You know this kind of entrepreneurship program
because you know there are people all over the world
just one click away.
So before I guess you know everyone, try to start their own
physical entrepreneurship program in their community. But
now this can be all you know, connected virtually and join
forces. But I have to admit that we haven’t really gone global
yet. In that sense, we try to bring the globe to us. You know
at this point, but you are in a way, because you’re affecting
the global, the whole global length communities in Bangladesh
with clean water, right? That’s huge. Yeah, that’s huge.
I think you know what would be really interesting is finding
out a little bit about you when you were growing up. What were
you like because you’re really pushing the boundaries here and
you’re the other thing. I I’m really impressed with is the
fact that you’re not scared to get something very different
going and to ask people to be part of what you’re doing and
influencers and and universities being part of what
you’re doing. So you as a child. What were you like?
How much time do I have?
It’s not, you know.
Where was I like? Well, you know, I I. I was born in San
Jose, CA but I moved to Korea because of, you know my family
situation and I grew up in this southernmost island in Korea
called Chitu, right? And it’s a very peaceful island and you
know, whatever I did I stood out not because I’m I was smart, but
because you know I was.
Uh, you know good at taking tests. I was cool, smart. I was
a, you know, very respectful child. I guess likable so but
but then you know right when I was fully enjoying my social
life, an academic status at school in Cheju my parents that
hey, it’s about time to go back to the States and study with you
know study or like. OK so I stayed with my uncle starting.
8th grade OK. Apart from my parents and all that I took
pride in as you know, like Pride and such as like my grades, my
popularity, family support. All of that was gone. I mean, I felt
humiliated when I showed up with my funny clothes that was
trending in Korea back then. You know I didn’t know where to eat
lunch so I went into bathroom stall and ate there. I was no
longer this advanced, gifted and
talented. Student, but I was rather a disadvantage ESL
student. Now I think that transition made a huge
difference in me that you left a lot of impact on me and.
But then I I developed a lot of inner strength then because I
could. You know, I could no
longer take. Pride of my academic rankings or social
status, right? So it was my vision and.
You know that that really drove me. Also, I was pretty
optimistic child things too small fixes. Sorry. What was
your fine vision?
OK so I was. I was taught to dream big all the time. You know
my dad always said you know you have to aim high.
And my my dream was to, well, there are three
dreams. One big dream was to become a Minister of
Education in South Korea. Second was to build a school
in North Korea one day and third was more realistic,
which is to go back to Treasure Island an you know
share share what I learn in the states with the students
who don’t have a chance.
So, so that really drove me. So why northern North North Korea?
Why would you want to start something up there? Why would
that be for a child, Ann, just to get your understanding from
your point of view?
So I had this huge heart for North Korea growing up, not
just because my grandparents are from there but also, you
know I’m a person of faith and I really, really wanted the
light of love in North Korea. Even as a child like I don’t
know why, but I wanted to share that and the best way to share
that light and Love is through education I thought, and I
wanted to build the best International School in North
Because I also met this really amazing person from a Pyongyang
Science Technology University, and that’s like a missionary run
secretly missionary run.
You know that person really just show me how it’s possible to
transform people’s lives through education and through good news.
Interesting, OK, so so you’ve got some really a different
perspective. Having grown up in South Korea, comeback going
through that experience. Great is one of the hardest times to
actually, you know, go through that because that’s when a lot
of peer pressure starts in an an yet you were able to overcome
that. Decide that hey, it’s not just about this is a tough time,
but I can, you know I’ve got this vision and to keep hold of
that. And you stayed with your your uncle. There’s a lot of
students who come from overseas that stay with other family
members or friends just to get some education in Canada or the
USI know it happens in both places. So your ideas now you’ve
seen around the world. You also move to New York for schooling
for awhile right? So you’ve moved quite a bit as well. If
you were a student now growing up in high school, what would
you recommend to them?
To be able to get ready for this this new world that’s upon us
and also just for themselves, so that they can release the genius
in in this world.
I think you know.
This is maybe set it.
Overly many times but.
Really, learning from failures, right? And what I mean by
failure is, you know, for example, being humiliated or
being stripped off of what you used to enjoy. And I actually
recommend. I mean, I congratulate those who are
living abroad with, you know their relatives. I mean they are
getting this rare chance to test their own self discipline and
you know a chance to develop great empathy. And I mean I have
to say, you know.
Living with my uncle was one of the biggest, you know. Life
lessons I got. I learned how to read peoples mind. Actually, you
know, am I upsetting them? Am I being burdensome to them? For
some teenagers that might not, you know, settle well ’cause it
says you’re right, it’s a very sensitive age, but you know, I
guess for me it really work that well and I I grew this
adaptability which became a huge asset later on an which helped
me grow wherever.
Whether it be New York, you know, or I mean I haven’t been
to any drastic extreme places yet, but I have confidence that
I will be able to find something to release my geniuses. And
it’s, you know, so I think for high school students I would. I
would love for them to just take a step back, examine their
situations, what they can possibly get out of it, no
matter how negative it seems.
That’s that’s really good for everyone. I think just to
listen in here, especially those people who are looking
at working with teenagers and.
Excuse me, I’ve got a little bit of a frog in my throat as they
say right now but but I think it’s so important to understand
that this growth requires some tough stuff. And even when you
were talking about giving the tough stuff to the kids in the
entrepreneurship program so often what education tries to do
is make everyone feel good. Oh, that’s nice. That’s nice. And in
fact it’s something that.
It drives me crazy when I hear that because when you’re saying
something is nice when it’s not really excellent, people need to
hear how to get to the excellence. And it doesn’t mean
that it’s going to be a nice ride all the time. And in fact
you need that tough stuff. It’s like, how do you make a diamond?
Well, it requires a lot of pressure and at the end that
pressure creates something absolutely beautiful. And humans
are the same way. We need some pressure. We need to be pushed
in certain directions and we would never have understood it
otherwise. I even feel sometimes, like you said, that
you were. Is hard to come from a place where you’re popular where
everything was going really well and somewhere else where you
were ASL student and you didn’t belong. And so how do you learn
how to belong an you also then have like you were talking about
the empathy for others because you know what it feels like now.
And that’s not a bad thing. It’s a bad thing if you try to go
down a path where you’re feeling sorry for yourself and then that
causes problems. But instead to have done something without
blaming others without feeling sorry for yourself and really
reaching up to this next level and saying, what can I do? It’s
pretty profound and I think this is so good for others to hear as
well. I would like to just hear you’ve got these two different
programs and I just very quickly here this because I know that
we’re coming to the end of the podcast and then I have one big
question to ask you at the end.
OK, so if you can just differentiate between the two
different programs that you run in the summer time so that
people understand that an then perhaps just describe how they
can get in touch with you or where they can look for these
programs so that they can also maybe use some of your ideas and
maybe even contact you and get some help or get some ideas.
OK, well so the second program that I run with in partnership
with the University of California, Irvine, is
convergence of Sciences and we focus on research and
innovation, right? So?
Program is called being and it stands for bio engineering AI,
an medicine and this program is mainly for those who want
University research experience, but you know, but it’s the
really the only kind of pre collegiate program that combines
many fields of Sciences as well as innovative entrepreneurship.
We there, there you go again like there needs to be that
entrepreneurship aspect because the current doctors are in
researchers are saying hey the world is fast changing.
Our jobs are going to become obsolete, but why are you
studying the same thing that we used to study? You know so to
really survive little, let alone innovate in the future, students
need to adopt entrepreneurial mindset and skillset.
So you know our program. They not only work with with a
University faculty research left, but also they go through
the entrepreneurial experience and many of the students are
surprised themselves to find that they’re actually interested
in entrepreneurship. You know, it’s very relevant to their
future careers, so they are no longer just bound to be
conductors and researchers. It’s our secret agenda to crush their
dreams, actually, to become
doctors. I mean become more multifaceted person right?
So how you can get in touch with you is, you know we have these
websites for our programs. Should I leave them with you or
will put them in the descriptions so everyone can
access them? What are they really quickly? Gatti,
summer.com and Gatsby dot or G OK, can you spell those please?
GATI summer.com and got the you know, G ATS VI
dot or G OK Fabulous OK one more
question. And this has got to do with releasing the genius. So
was the one thing that you think that will help.
Anybody working with others release the genius in
Cool. So people like me right to help other people.
I think being the mirror to them really helps them release the
genius. I know that’s little abstract, but what really sets
extraordinary people from ordinary people is not the
smartness, not the intellect. Obviously you guys know that
right, and I think the extras are there. Emotional, social,
emotional, inner string.
But oftentimes students don’t focus on that. They often just
mistaken or equate, you know, talent. I mean, sorry
achievements with talent.
But their achievements don’t
really. Not necessarily mean that their talents. For example
Nathan, if you win like #1 and spirit of math competition,
right? That’s the result. Like that’s the achievement an you
win nothing in English and you can easily think as a high
school student that you are talented in math but not in
English. But that’s not true. You have to look deeper into
what attributed to your achievement. Is it. Your
diligence? Is it your personality that asks for quick
answers? Or is it your family value is that?
You know a lot of.
Things play into this achievement that you made, so I
think people if you want to help others release their geniuses,
help them think about these factors that attribute to that
achievement instead of Justice. Focusing on achieving more and
more. That that makes sense. So so wise, and I think that we’ve
just started to touch the tip of the iceberg of what’s inside
your brain, because what you’ve just said is really really quite
deep, and it must be wonderful. If you were, excuse me, if you
were a student working with you, I bet you go really deep with
them too. That’s that’s pretty pretty nice. Thank you so much.
This is being really amazing and I wanted to say thank you to
everyone listening. Will put the Gatsby and Gatti in the
description and also again, thank you Julie for joining it
was really insightful to talk about. How are you impacting the
world even though you might say that you might not be. But
really, we all think you are. And then let’s let’s try to keep
this conversation going as well. How can this continue and grow
and we ask her audience as well to join in on that conversation.
This is wonderful. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for
this. Yeah, thank you so much for this opportunity. I
had a lot of fun.
OK, Alright and then hopefully we’ll see you soon. OK, so an
listening you guys for even more of what we’re going to be doing
later. This is just a great example for you all of what
people can do if they’re looking for more than just the shallow.
I’ve got a high score that this goes much deeper an it’s helping
people understand how this world works and economically not just
for education, is integrating the economics with.
Education and I think today is becoming much more clear that
this is even needed even more today. So once again thank you
so much Julie. This is been a
thrill. Thank you.