When Ateba Gaines was young, her dream was to be like Wonder Woman. The superhero possessed all the traits that Gaines longed to have in her life.
“I always wanted to be a superhero, but I didn’t know how,” Gaines says. “I never felt like I had the power. I just loved her. Justice always happened just like that.”
A lot has changed since then. Gaines, 47, now possesses a lot of power and wisdom. She is her own kind of Wonder Woman and is pedaling hard to change the world and the community. Gaines is founder of a non-profit organization called Unreasonable Kids. Started in August 2019, Unreasonable Kids is a social entrepreneurship education program for young people craving the power to make a difference.
“I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” says Gaines, a graduate of Denbigh High School and mother of three. “I wanted to create some way to empower kids to have a voice because I never had that.”
Gaines has an impressive resume. She was a doctorate student at Johns Hopkins University; a leader of a camp at Stanford University in which international students came to learn social entrepreneurial skills; worked at Nike and managed its Southeast Asia footwear account; was the force behind a nonprofit organization called Shoe Revolt that auctioned celebrity shoes and used the proceeds to prevent human trafficking; and was a professor at Old Dominion University. She was on her way to China to teach marketing when she came to Newport News to see family before she left. It was during that visit that she learned her grandmother had stage 4 cancer. She canceled her plans for China and decided to stay in Hampton Roads.
From there, Gaines set her sites on blending her love of children, social change and entrepreneurship. She used her passion and energy to create Unreasonable Kids. It is now a thriving program that is touching kids all over the country. Based out of a small office in Tech Center, Gaines conducts affordable classes online, at Brooks Crossing Innovation Center in downtown Newport News and for Newport News Parks and Recreation. Her first class was on September 19. The idea is to teach children how to be compassionate and creative about social issues affecting their communities and effective in bringing change that will make a difference in their worlds.
“Unreasonable Kids means everything you think you know you don’t know,” Gaines says. “I want kids to think outside the box. I don’t want them to see a problem, but an opportunity to do something different, to find a new solution. In this class, everyone is equal. We care about what is inside of you and how you’re going to bring it out so you can change the world.”
Gaines uses the United Nations’ 17 Sustainability Development Goals, which focus on poverty, gender equality, hunger and education as project launching pads for her students. She refers to her students as superheroes. They choose a goal, design a superhero cape and begin their mission to find solutions. Even at their young ages, they present their research and suggestions. She helps them to find their voice and their passion.
“One parent said to me that she couldn’t believe her kids could speak this way,” Gaines says. Unreasonable Kids has programs for children as young as six years old. By shaping kids at a young age, Gaines is hoping they take what they learn from her classes and build on it as they grow up.
“Kid leaders turn into adult leaders,” she says. “They can change the world. My kids are disrupters. When they are older, I hope they all find new ways of doing things. I know they will make the world a better place.”
Gaines has found her niche, a place where her love of social change, children and action intersect. She is working to grow the program and touch more and more youngsters.
“Wonder Woman always had a gold lasso, she says. “ My lasso is my Unreasonable Kids. They are the glow in the world and we all need a lot of glow.”
TO THE POINT:
Address: 700 Tech Center Pkwy, Ste. 200, Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Ateba Gaines, founder