"You Can Be" Speaker, Quincy Swatson
This past week, Quincy Swatson, a speaker from the You Can Be series, shared his entrepreneur and science accomplishments with students in hopes to educate and inspire their futures. On February 16th, 2017, G.I.E.P. students, led by Mr. Jeff Sieg, had the opportunity to speak directly and ask questions to this Pittsburgh entrepreneur.
Swatson is the founder of The Door Campaign, an aquaponics establishment in the Pittsburgh community that enhances science and technology in school classrooms. Aquaponics combines aquaculture and hydroponics in a system in which waste from fish are used as fertilizer for the plants to produce sustainable produce fit for human consumption. In Swatson’s curriculum, taught at many Pittsburgh charter schools, the ecosystems are established in 20-gallon tanks with goldfish to grow basil or kale.
However, the future for this technology of sustainable produce can be enacted on a larger scale, as demonstrated by the shipping container ecosystem placed in downtown Pittsburgh last fall. This experiment was done to display the ease and positive benefits of aquaponics to Pittsburgh officials. At the end of the growing season, they worked with a local restaurant, Savoy, to showcase the locally grown produce. This mutually beneficial event helped support small business jobs in the restaurant industry and sustainably grown produce created through this aquaponics ecosystem. While also working with Carnegie Mellon University, the ‘Basil Blitz’ event used the herbs grown in the tank for drinks, appetizers, and entrees to show the community the freshness of locally grown foods and study how it can positively impact the community.
Swatson found his passion for the environment and working to protect it when a science teacher approached him and discussed the Student Conservation Association program that worked with the National Parks Service in an effort to bring young students into this field of study. That summer, he spent his days traveling from one national park to another, working with his peers to establish and protect the ecosystems in the United States. With his overwhelming excitement toward this field, he wanted to figure out a way to inform others as to how change was possible in every individuals’ lives. Swatson grew older, and looked for a way to combine his passion for environmental science and business savvy into a profitable job. Swanson chose to go to college for psychology to better understand how some people can find and follow their passions, whereas other live their lives unfulfilled. He took this business risk at a young age knowing that he had less to lose at that point in his life compared to going after his dreams at an older age. Swatson put in hard time, working for years to establish his nonprofit organization from the ground up. As a nonprofit, there are no shareholders, and therefore no one for Swatson to be held accountable to, which inspired him to be his own boss. He learned business and tax laws to fill out his own paperwork, instead of wasting the little money his business had made on lawyers. His contribution in this company was not only monetary but also investing his time into his vision of creating this program.
Swatson was able to accomplish this success in the past and is on track to continue to reach his goals in the near future due to his mentors and the mentality he has toward change. He hopes to inspire his students and peers to become change agents of the world, working toward better institutions and organizations in whatever field inspires them. Our own group of students was made up of those interested in medicine, ecology, politics, engineering, and other groundbreaking fields. With new technology available more and more each day, Swatson has a bright anticipation for the future and looks to students of the now to hone in on properly helping with change. He believes students have “untapped potential and the ability to unleash their hidden greatness.” Pittsburgh itself is becoming a breeding ground for tech and engineering companies with sectors from Ford, Google, Uber, Facebook, and many more big names calling our city home.
To become a change agent, Swatson looks for someone to have to following characteristics: a clear vision of what they want to do, patience for change to come but persistence to make sure their vision is happening, able to ask the tough questions where answers may be hard to find, are able to lead by their own example, and can build strong and long-lasting relationships on trust. Even though this sounds like an impossible list for just one person, these are the key points to continue working to achieve the change necessary for the wellbeing of the community.
Swatson left students with questions about what it is they want to create and how they can go about achieving their visions. In an incredibly inspiring forty minutes, Qunicy Swatson spoke to a variety of students from Keystone Oaks High School and hopes to have ignited their flame of creativity and ingenuity.