Our Mission Statement
NEXT Steps S.T.E.M.-based service learning programs and activities equip youth and young adults with marketable project management and business development skills. We provide students with opportunities to deliver products and services for real clients by engaging them in activities that involve civic leadership, health and wellness, urban agritourism, social entrepreneurship, environmental stewardship, and S.T.E.M. career pathways.
Our “Secret Weapon”
The CIGS Strategic Organizational Growth Model is a flat management tool that teaches students how to organize and showcase their skills, talents and resources. By developing small executive management teams, students gain experience in creating mission statements, timelines and business activities that demonstrate their abilities to self-govern, collaborate with their peers, communicate effectively and make a positive impact upon their schools, communities and personal lives.
Our Strategic Toolbox
The NEXT Steps Youth Entrepreneur Youth Entrepreneur Program (NEXT Steps) has been successful in using our signature Community Involvement Growth Strategy (CIGS) Organizational Management and Holistic Food System Network systems through our Atwood Model to teach students and their supporters how to identify and make use of community resources that are available to them “within their own backyards”. We have learned to use the urban farm environment as an educational site for workshops, field trips and internships. Surprisingly, the farm has also been great for mentoring. Our deliverables have increasingly included on a small, local scale: increased food security, wetland and native plant restoration, landscaping, horticulture, workshops in leadership, violence prevention and health promotion. We’ve helped increase youth and young adults’ skills in production, marketing and business management.
Over the past 5 years, NEXT Steps has evolved from a basic youth education program to a driving force behind Atlanta’s young urban agriculture movement. We have created a niche in applying capacity building best practices while focusing on a 5 to 10 mile radius of our training farm sites. This strategy has allowed us to penetrate Atlanta’s urban agriculture market with stunning success. We have gained local and national recognition as one of the trendsetters for the urban agriculture movement by Emory University’s Sixteen City Survey publication (June 2011). We have also hosted Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed for our National Food Day Celebration (Oct 2012). We are currently working with Deloitte Consulting to strengthen our board and fundraising capabilities.
Dana Jewel Harris, Founder
NEXT Steps Youth Entrepreneur Program
Photo Credit: xoxoatlanta
About Our Founder
For the past 20 years, Dana Jewel Harris has been using her signature CIGS (Community Involvement Growth Strategy) Model as the perfect organizational tool to help small businesses develop business plans and revise their existing business models. Her foundation as a former military logistics specialist for the U.S. Army helped her become a successful strategic planner — securing millions of dollars for start-ups in the entertainment, real estate, restaurant, automotive services and urban agriculture industries. Now she uses this platform to teach kids how to become social entrepreneurs.
Special thanks goes out to Rev. Jerry Fincher and the kids and coordinators from the Student Life Mission Camp (2013). Their visit, prayers and donation to me came during what can officially be recognized as the absolute lowest point of my journey with Atwood. Their energy, hard work and desire to help get Atwood back together — especially after a series of tornadoes, torrential rains, flooding and series of unfortunate occurrences — gave me the will to continue on this epic journey. I have lived off the powerful flow of positive thinking they bestowed upon me ever since meeting them. And I just want them to know, from the bottom of my heart, that their investment in me and my vision for Atwood will never, ever, ever go to waste.
Thank you Rev. Jerry Fincher, Melissa Nicholson, Tyler Golson, Mark Lefholz, Lloyd Blank, and Brandon Meadows!
~ Dana Jewel Harris