Lara Valentina Pizarro: Video Games Impassion Youth in the Classroom
Hi! It’s me, Spiffy the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with the latest scoop on entrepreneurs making a difference on UN SDG 4: Quality Education for children and youth around the world! I’m in Argentina to meet Lara Valentina Pizarro, founder and CEO of Hexar. Are you ready to be enlightened?
Spiffy: Welcome Lara, it’s wonderful to meet you! Can you tell me what challenges you’re addressing through your start-up?
Lara: Gracias, Spiffy, it’s great to meet you too! Did you know that reports indicate that six out of ten students in developing countries do not reach the minimum levels of scientific literacy? This is true for both public and private schools. And 75% of educators do not feel qualified to teach the skills that the future of work requires (PISA 2018). At Hexar, we believe in creating a high-quality and motivating education, so that every child finds his or her passion and transforms the world through science and knowledge.
Spiffy: What motivated you to create educational content, and inspire kids?
Lara: My parents taught me to love science—as if it were magic. Kind of like the real version of what was happening in Harry Potters' movies. But when I began going to school, learning became repetitive and boring. After 15 years of feeling trapped in classrooms, with little room for creativity, I almost lost hope. But then I met two wonderful students who inspired me to take action. Together we decided to change the way we learn and teach through our favorite hobby—playing video games. We take youth’s passions into the schools so that school can become one of their passions.
Spiffy: I see! Hexar is something you would have loved! Can you tell me more about how you’re making the world more equitable?
Lara: At Hexar we work to bring skills and scientific knowledge closer to the ones who need it—the young people entering the job market. We provide educational video games to teach knowledge that is relevant to the whole society in a meaningful way for students. We have already worked with the Argentinian Ministry of Education and launched an app that has had national reach. We have launched more than 10 videogames, reaching 7000 students, and expect to impact 2,500 schools and 1.2 million students by 2023. Last year we launched Pandemium, a free educational video game on healthy habits to prevent the spread of the COVID-19. Pandemium follows the health recommendations provided by the World Health Organization (WHO, also known as OMS—Organización Mundial de la Salud in Spanish) and was used worldwide by more than 5,700 students.
Spiffy: Have you reached any exciting milestones that you’d like to tell everyone about?
Lara: The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing unprecedented disruption for youth and students. Hexar is committed to democratizing education through video games, so we have worked hard to provide great support to schools during this crisis. Two months after Covid-19 hit Argentina, we created Pandemium: the first educational video game to teach healthy habits for the prevention of Covid-19. We also launched a campaign to generate a library of activities for the incorporation of healthy habits in which more than 30 organizations from all over Latin America joined us. All the resources are available for free on our website.
Spiffy: That’s exciting! I’ll be sure to have people check it out. Before we sign off, can you share about an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up? What did you learn from failure?
Lara: Well, Spiffy, our first launch was done together with another organization. However, due to internal changes in the partner organization, soon after the launch, the videogame was removed and it was no longer available. This meant that over six months of work was invested in a videogame that could not be used by anyone. It was a great disappointment for the team, but it inspired us to review our business model and our alliances and push forward to develop our own educational videogame platform.
Spiffy: Sometimes failures really do lead to success, right Lara? Thank you so much for sharing about your amazing work. It’s been an honor.
Lara Valentina Pizarro is a socio-technological entrepreneur dedicated to unfolding youth potential, building critical citizenship through learning, changing, and doing. In 2017, at the age of 17, Lara founded Hexar, a social enterprise that develops educational video games to engage every student in a lifelong learning experience. Her vision is to make each youth a global citizen and a committed change maker. (Nominated by One Young World. First published on the Ladderworks website on July 30, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.