Over the past six years, Ryan Hesslau has spent the majority of his free time focusing on a “do good” mission. After recently graduating from college, he is excited to make that mission his full-time job.
Hesslau says that when he began as a freshman at Lincoln-Way East High School, like many high school students, he developed a fear of rejection and a desire for acceptance. But between freshman and senior year, his experiences and interests helped him build both confidence and motivation.
By the time Hesslau graduated in 2014, he already had experience in the entrepreneurial ecosystem – cold calling, public speaking, business writing and more.
During his sophomore year at Lincoln-Way East, Hesslau started an initiative to help struggling students cling to hope.
Despite not having a solid plan, Hesslau knew he wanted to create an initiative to combat bullying and the stigma surrounding mental health. On May 6, 2012, the then-16-year-old launched a Facebook page called “foreverU,” an initiative that would eventually evolve into a youth empowerment organization.
Hesslau began by reaching out to his friends and fellow classmates via social media to gain momentum. Today, foreverU has evolved from an anti-bullying project into a nonprofit youth empowerment organization that exists to ensure “no youth walk through life alone.“
The organization currently offers empowerment camps, retreats and programs for high school students throughout the Midwest and beyond. All programs are focused on personal development and self-empowerment principles, while also cultivating peer-to-peer communities in the process.
The once-clouded direction of his idea is now a solid and thriving organization. The recent college graduate oversees the Board of Directors, Student Advisory Council and Event Committees; the volunteer-run nonprofit plans to expand its leadership in day-to-day operations by bringing in full-time and part-time staff members in the near future. While leading foreverU, Hesslau is also the founder and CEO of Above the Waves, a counseling and communication technology company.
Hesslau’s former teachers from Lincoln-Way East still follow along with his work and support his growth.
On June 24, foreverU held its third annual Golf Outing & Banquet fundraiser to help send students through empowerment camps, retreats and programs.
Additionally, foreverU is hosting its second overnight empowerment camp (offered through its program “Reset Experience”) for high school students. The camp teaches students how to “be brave with the story they are living,” and gives students the tools needed to live a life of impact, influence and courage.
For more information, visit www.foreverumovement.org.