The OperationSTART Origin Story

Learn more about the origin story of OperationSTART and how it was founded written by Johnny Lin, Co-Founder and Executive Director of OperationSTART.

Image of the Port of San Francisco from Unsplash

Finding enrichment opportunities has always been hard, even though it doesn’t sound like a hard thing. The reality is that saying something is usually easier than actually doing it. This challenge has recently gotten harder than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the summer of 2020, our Co-Founder and Executive Director, Johnny Lin, had an idea to create an online website that puts together all the enrichment opportunities offered in San Francisco.

Johnny is a rising Senior at George Washington High School in San Francisco. He’s also a part of SEO Scholars and the President of Mission Bit’s Student Advisory Board. He recently struggled to find enrichment opportunities that he could participate in over the summer. He wanted to have many programs in front of him, so he could choose which to apply to. It turns out it was hard for him to find programs that fit him. He eventually got help from his mentor and SEO Scholars to find programs he liked and eventually applied to.

But without the help of SEO Scholars and his mentor, he wouldn’t have been able to find and apply to the programs he did.

This was when he came up with the idea to create OperationSTART. He knew that he couldn’t do this by himself, so he pitched the idea to his friends Tiffany Ian, Co-Founder and Programs Director of OperationSTART, and Lilian Emelife, Co-Founder and Outreach Director of OperationSTART. They were on board with the idea, so they started working on developing this organization!

What is OperationSTART?

OperationSTART is a youth led-organization focused on providing accessible opportunities to youth in the San Francisco Bay Area. OperationSTART helps address a significant social inequity: challenges first-generation college-bound students face, including awareness of what experiences are needed to succeed during and after college or what opportunities to have those experiences. The mission of OperationSTART is to provide an online platform that supports the San Francisco Bay Area youth, ages 14 to 18, by identifying unique learning opportunities. Through these opportunities, OperationSTART aims to enable SF youth to gain skills and experience needed for college, career, and beyond.

Founding OperationSTART

The process of founding OperationSTART was not an easy task. Johnny had prior experience building something from the ground up and quickly realized that we needed a solid infrastructure for the organization. Johnny, Tiffany, and Lilian got into calls and discussed many different ideas and plans for OperationSTART. The organization officially started in July 2020 when applying for a grant with the Youth Empowerment Fund (YEF) with the YMCA of San Francisco.

The grant process was challenging for us. The youth funders at YEF had concerns about our project during their school year cycle, and unfortunately, we got denied a grant. However, we did not give up there. We reapplied for their spring cycle with their concerns in mind and then got approved for a $10,000 grant in January 2021.

This was a massive breakthrough for OperationSTART. We were able to start developing and building the organization so it’d be sustainable for the future. This brings us to today.

Where we are today!

Today, we are a team of five: Johnny, Tiffany, and Lilian, the founders and two team members. Teresa Liu joined us on May 10th as an Administrative Assistant, and Monica Luo joined us on May 10th as a Data Entry Intern. We recently also had high school students in San Francisco who wanted to volunteer with OperationSTART over the summer to help us further our mission.

The future of OperationSTART

Johnny, Tiffany, and Lilian will be graduating and heading off to college in 2022, which leaves the question of what will happen with OperationSTART. They have not thought that far yet, but they know they want a vast audience of youth utilizing the platform and hearing from youth positively impacted by OperationSTART.

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