A few days ago, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the University of California, Irvine, Duke University and the virtual network of HASTAC, announced its second annual open-call competition that will provide $2 million in awards to innovators shaping the field of digital media and learning. This year the awards have a category to solicit ideas from young people, age 18-25. This got me curious about the young people blogging about education or doing projects. That lead me to Jennifer Rauch, the co-founder of The Generation Project.
1. Tell me about you
Education is my passion. Since I was a first year college student at UC Berkeley, I have been working with students and schools in low-income communities and have grown increasingly aware of how educational disparities keep children from reaching their potential. I taught in the Bronx for two years through Teach For America while working toward my M.A. in General Childhood Education at Bank Street College of Education. I left the classroom in 2007 to join Teach For America staff where I pioneered graduate school recruitment for the organization through May of this year. I am currently launching The Generation Project full-time.
2. Tell me about your project, The Generation Project
The Generation Project is a new charity that seeks to revolutionize educational philanthropy by giving donors creative control over their gifts to kids in low-income communities. Instead of just opening their checkbooks for a cause, donors are able to create opportunities for high-need kids based on their own passions and priorities. The form these donations can take is limited only by donors' imaginations: For example:
- A musician might donate a set of instruments to a high school band
- A military veteran might sponsor an essay contest on freedom
- A runner might donate running shoes to a middle school running club
- A cancer survivor might sponsor a hospital internship for students interested in pursuing medicine
The Generation Project recruits donors and facilitates gift implementation providing complete transparency at all stages of the process. The long-term goal is to facilitate meaningful connections so as donors progress in their careers they can expand their impact in ways that are responsive to the needs of individuals in low-income communities.
3. How did you come up with the idea for connecting philanthropists with students in this way
It was really a combination of things. When I was a fourth-grade teacher through Teach For America, I had kids who were extremely bright and had a variety of passions but the reality was that they simply didn't have access to the same formative experiences as children in wealthier areas. Eli Savit, the other co-founder, recognized the same thing during his time teaching eighth-grade social studies. With this in mind, we wanted to find a way to expand the breadth of opportunities for our students and others like them. As I and many of my friends left the classroom, we wanted to find ways to continue to give back that were meaningful and based on what we believed would make a significant and lasting impact in the lives of kids growing up in low-income communities.
Eli and I talked about this often and then decided we should just start our own organization that could give donors creative control over their donation dollars while providing kids with access to more opportunities. We also realized that this could significantly impact the way people give back in the short and long term. Young professionals engaging in giving through The Generation Project will not only make an immediate impact in the lives of students but will hopefully lead to the building of relationships between professionals and low-income communities that will encourage donors to give back in increasing ways as they progress in their careers. Today's philanthropists--and potential philanthropists--want to do more than simply open their checkbook for a cause. You no longer have to be Richard Branson or Bill Gates to give back in ways that are most meaningful to you. Anyone can now become an educational philanthropist through The Generation Project and use their own passions and priorities to determine the most significant ways to expand opportunities for high-need students.
4. Why are you passionate about teaching young people?
Education is supposed to be the great equalizer. In our nation's schools, great disparities exist and we cannot simply sit on the sideline while this injustice persists. If we work to ensure that children are given access to the educational opportunities they deserve, our nation will be stronger and our future more secure. It is for the good of the individual and the nation that we must solve the achievement gap.
5. How will you social media as part of your implementation strategy?
The Generation Project will be initially aimed at young professionals, many of whom use and engage in social media regularly. One aim of The Generation Project is to bring donors together to engage in the giving process so they can collaborate on ways to make the biggest impact. Social media will be vital to this success because it is an efficient way to spread the word about the exciting opportunity while providing ways for people to connect.
The Generation Project's website will also offer the opportunity for donors to form a community focused on educational philanthropy. Donors will be able to discuss gifts and interactively engage with one another. Through thegenerationproject.org, donors can maximize their impact by collaborating on projects. For example, a former college swimmer who wants to start an inner-city swim team might convince other swimming aficionados to fund teams in the same city, thus establishing a full-fledged league. More experienced donors could also help new donors design a gift so that it maximizes its impact, and donors who want to move onto new projects could recruit new donors to take over funding responsibility for their old commitments. Thus, The Generation Project hopes to develop a larger community of donors who are actively engaged in educational philanthropy and feel personally connected to low-income students and schools.
6. What are some of the best blogs written by young people who are passionate about education for youth? Where can you find these people on the social web?
Ideablob.com of course! The website is such a great way to connect with entrepreneurs. We received some really great advice and encouragement and met a lot of people who want to help us develop our idea.
Glassbooth.org blog. This is an awesome site popular with young people
Perspectives from young educators:
Are there other Gen Y's blogging about education and digital media? Who are they? I'm compiling a list so please leave a comment with a link to your blog.