Our Startup Story
A 16 year old with a vision of helping youth find their place.
“When we discover purpose for the pain that we encounter, it changes the way we navigate life." This belief provides the framework and catalyst for Ryan Hesslau’s mission: to equip students from all walks of life, to live a life of impact and influence. ForeverU, a 501(c)(3) youth empowerment organization, exists to ensure no youth walk through life alone. This is not an easy task, especially for a sixteen-year-old to undertake.
However, Ryan did not shy away from the challenge before him. In 2012, Hesslau’s organization began with a Facebook post motivated by the sudden suicide of a local high school student. Fast-forward a few years, and the small startup now has its own story to share; one filled with bumps and snags, but overflowing with hope and passion.
Transitioning into a large high school in Illinois, Ryan Hesslau ran up against the struggles that many youth face. Ryan is honest when he describes his experience: “As I transitioned into high school, I developed a fear of rejection and a desire for acceptance.” He made choices that he says “distracted him from who he was intended to be”.
Creative and innovative, in his first years of high school, Ryan spent a great deal of time brainstorming business ideas and endeavors, often as a way to distract himself from the negativity and pressures that bombarded him. At this time, his attention was drawn towards problems in society that were affecting youth across the globe and spent time researching the stories of students who took their lives due to a wide variety of life challenges such as mental illness and bullying. Ryan now keeps their pictures with him as a constant reminder of why he started the mission of ForeverU.
Today, ForeverU has evolved into a not-for-profit organization that is empowering youth to overcome adversity by offering personal development camps, retreats, and after-school programs that equip them to face life's greatest challenges and obstacles.
Ryan is a 2018 graduate of Trinity Christian College where he earned a Bachelors degree in Entrepreneurial Management. He currently serves as the President & Executive Director of ForeverU, and is also the Founder & CEO of the technology company, Above the Waves .