Finding My Future

PROVO, Utah – Aug 27, 2019 – While walking through the crowded streets of Guatemala, I met an elderly man wearing tattered clothing and covered in filth. It was apparent by the way he stumbled and stuttered that he had been drinking alcohol. He seemed eager to speak to someone—anyone—so when I introduced myself as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he had a lot to say. 

He invited my companion and I to his home, and we agreed to go. We walked up and down several dirt roads for some time, each of them boxed in by cinder-block apartments that all looked the same. We then came to a large field and began walking through the field. My companion and I exchanged confused glances; we were sure there weren’t any more buildings in the direction we were walking and were worried about where exactly he was guiding us. 

Eventually we arrived at what looked like a very small hut. The roof was thatched, and at its thickest point, the wall of this meager structure had two sticks. It seemed as if this man could hardly fit inside by himself, let alone welcome guests. He turned to us and announced that we had arrived at his home. 

This man lived in dire poverty and was heavily dependent on alcohol and other drugs. He isn’t alone in this lifestyle. Millions of others across the country of Guatemala and throughout the world cannot afford shelter, transportation, or even food. I witnessed firsthand the tragedies that poverty brings. Following my mission, I committed to spend a portion of my life doing something for people who have nothing.

When I came to BYU, I heard about the BYU Marriott’s Ballard Center Social Venture Academy, a program that helps student entrepreneurs create organizations that provide social good and solve problems like those I saw in Guatemala. I applied to be a navigator for the Academy and was accepted. I then had the opportunity to consult student-run startups while also learning key business principles. 

As I worked with these different ventures, I was able to help the student entrepreneurs who started them gather their thoughts, focus their ideas, and pursue a specific direction. It was as if I got to be a part of their teams, pushing them to network, pitch to investors and professors, and heighten their professionalism. It was a rewarding experience and provided me with skills that I want to apply to my own social venture someday. 

Through my work with the Social Venture Academy, my perspective on social issues has changed, and it has created a pattern of learning and growth within my life. I have begun to ask more questions and to seek for the root cause of a problem. Since being involved, I have gained a greater desire to explore the ideas that I have to provide social good throughout the world. I have also realized that there is no definite solution to the problem of poverty, but there are things societies can do—and that I can do personally—to make a difference in overcoming it.

Because of my experiences, I now recognize that ultimately I want to be working with social ventures for much of my career, and that realization is empowering. The Ballard Center at BYU Marriott provided me a legitimate plan to begin helping others full-time and to make a living while doing it. 

I have participated with the Ballard Center every semester since I have been at BYU, and my participations has changed me. I have begun to cultivate an attitude of compassion for all those around me, see problems in the world, and realize I can make a difference. I have also been inspired by the acts of others who are striving to Do Good. Better. 

We are not alone in our desire to help others. There are for-profit, nonprofit, and government organizations that are socially conscious, there are students who are learning to face major issues, and there are professors who are teaching how to make an impact. The Ballard Center is a culmination of all these entities, and the center has enabled me to participate in doing social good. 

Learn more about how you can become part of the Social Venture Academy at

Ryan McFadyen is an economics major and initially got involved with the Ballard Center through the Social Venture Academy.

Ryan McFadyen
Ryan McFadyen

Media Contact: Alicia Gettys (801) 422-5283
Writer: Ryan McFadyen