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The NextGen Summit: How a NEIA Student is Empowering Young Entrepreneurs

Langston (11th grade) is putting together an ambitious, valuable conference for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Langston started his first business in the second grade. Partnering with his sister, he made Rainbow Loom bracelets and sold them in Regent’s Park in London. At just seven years old, he was already an entrepreneur. 

Now, as an 11th grader, Langston is designing and planning the first NextGen Summit, held here on New England Innovation Academy’s campus. He is building a community of young entrepreneurs and creating a space for them to network, learn, and grow. The conference takes place on May 5, 2024, from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., in Marlborough, MA. There will be a pitch competition, guest speakers, and several workshops. 

To understand the NextGen Summit, you have to understand a little more about the person behind it. There is something uniquely global about Langston. He is “the child of African-American and Caribbean-American parents.” His mother is Cameroonian-American. His father is Trinidadian-Jamacian-Panamaian American. Langston was born in Ohio but has moved from New Jersey, to London, to Zürich, following his parents wherever their work took them next.

“I have to say I’m very fortunate because my parents have always been supportive,” Langston said. “If I told them I’m going to jump off a cliff with a parachute. They would say, ‘All right, bring a helmet, bring your sister.” He laughed. “They are incredibly supportive.”

At school in Switzerland, Langston felt unfulfilled. Test scores were the only measure of learning. He saw no real-world application, there was no opportunity for him to be creative. He decided it was time to “jump off the cliff” into something new. He applied and was ultimately accepted to what the internet called the number one boarding school, Phillips Academy Andover. At that time, the prestige, the number ONE, was all he cared about.

But at P.A., he faced a lot of the same challenges he’d encountered in Switzerland. Again, lessons culminated in a test score. He knew just how much effort he had to put in to get okay grades, and was content to do so. None of his peers at P.A. seemed interested in entrepreneurship, and he struggled to find like-minded young entrepreneurs. That didn’t stop him though. He started the HiveTalks podcast, which gave him a reason to reach out to people in business and create valuable conversations that other students could learn from. More and more, however, he found himself most excited by the things he was doing outside of class. Though the grades never got low enough to cross their line of real concern, his parents noticed that he wasn’t enjoying himself.

“They saw right through that. They said, ‘Okay, Langston, we’re realizing you don’t enjoy this. Instead of making time for the things you want to do, how about you just do the things you want to do all the time?’” He kept trying to make himself fit into the traditional academic mold, but, finally, he had an epiphany. During a late-night studying session, music playing in the background, the Lauryn Hill song “I Find it Hard to Say Rebel” came on. 

“I’m working, and I’m just hearing Lauren say, ‘Wake up, wake up wake up,’ multiple times,” Langston remembered. “And she’s talking about rebelling from a system and not falling into the boxes that society has placed on you and all these things and I’m just like, ‘Wait.’ I paused what I was working on. I’m sitting here like, ‘I’m in this. I’m in the thick of it. Do I continue in this place that’s not meant for me?”

From his grandfather in New England, Langston first heard about a new school called New England Innovation Academy. A school that gives students space to pursue their passions and not only encourages an entrepreneurial mindset but demands it. The rest, as they say, is history. Beginning in the fall of 2023, Langston has thrived. He used this time and space at NEIA to create the NextGen Summit, as well as several other projects he’s equally excited about. “I feel like I couldn’t have done this at another school,” Langston said. He credits our faculty for giving him their time and their full effort to help set him (and this conference) up for success.

Over time, Langston has evolved the NextGen Summit. He doesn’t just want it to be a business club that connects students: he wants to educate and empower students from all schools that may not have an entrepreneurial learning environment. This transition involved adding networking opportunities, educational workshops led by industry leaders, and funding/support avenues like pitch competitions and mentorship programs. Throughout this process, he has grown more confident in networking with successful individuals to build a strong community and honed his marketing and business skills.

He’s no longer that kid in Regent’s Park, selling bracelets, but he still has that same drive.

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