How did you get involved with The Future Project?
Two of my good friends, Kanya and Andrew- the founders of The Future Project, called me last September and said they had an idea for a project that would help end apathy in education. Over the course of this past year, we’ve built a program that aims to create a world in which everyone is inspired- starting in high schools. We’re changing a system that breeds boredom and stifles creativity to one that inspires students to become agents of change in their schools and communities.
What does The Future Project do?
We connect students in urban public high schools with volunteer coaches from their community, who are passionate young professionals and college students at nearby schools. We create partnerships and teams between the high school students and their coaches and challenge each pair to spend a year building a passion-inspired project that creates a meaningful impact in their school or community (for example, creating a community garden or starting a student advocacy group).
The mentorship program fosters a relationship between the high school student and ‘Future Coach’ through weekly 90-minute meetings where the students map out their goals for an inspired future and build trust with their coach. There is also a team element that combines mentor groups and introduces games and challenges that help with skill building and problem solving.
What’s unique about The Future Project?
So many organizations focus on the process of getting students into college, and miss all of the steps in between- like helping students figure out what they are interested in and passionate about. Striving to get into college should not be a means to an end; instead it should be part of a process of self-discovery and self-invention.
The Future Project focuses on tapping into high school students’ potential and provides them a means to do so through our year-long mentoring process and completion of a project with their mentor. Through this process, students are inspired and given the tools to succeed and to question where their true passions lie, creating a strong platform for them to jump from when they go to college.
How does The Future Project choose high schools to partner with?
There are two main ways: The first is that there is a noticeable need for inspiration at the school. This can be measured in terms of attendance and graduation rates, as well as the lack of opportunity for students to engage in outside programs due to a shortage of resources and staff. The second is that the schools, including the administration, teachers and students, want us to be there and are willing to work with us toward common goals.
What personal challenges have you faced working at TFP?
One of the most challenging aspects of working at The Future Project has been finding what my greatest asset is to our team. We have so many motivated and passionate people that sometimes it’s hard to differentiate what I can offer that is different and valuable for the organization. As the COO of The Future Project, I am constantly asking myself how we can keep the team inspired. We’ve found that a combination of ownership in tasks and projects as well as clarity in communication create the platform for inspiration to be built upon.
Has there been a “greatest moment” for you working on the project so far?
When we were looking for schools to partner with in Washington, D.C. we went to a high school that had a noticeable need for inspiration. We were preparing to talk with the students in different classes and one teacher approached us and said, “Don’t expect much of a response from our students”.
We went in and talked to the classes and each student I spoke with wanted the chance to dream big and wanted to do something large with their life. No one had ever asked them that question before or had cared about what their answer was. I realized that people want to dream big, but they want to be followed up on it- they want to be held responsible for their big dream.
What is The Future Project’s big dream?
For every student to be a part of the project someday starting with one student, one school at a time. Our dream is to defeat “I didn’t think I could do that” by providing students opportunities to become agents of change in their communities. We want to be part of the process of tipping the whole culture of the school to one of inspiration and questioning. We’d love if one day a school shifted its curriculum to give credit to students for their inspiration and passion projects.
What’s your advice for recent college grads and students in the self-discovery process?
Don’t take it too seriously. It’s ok to have multiple passions- when you try something dive in and see what happens, if it doesn’t work out you can always go after other things and try something different. Employers like this too- when I was applying for jobs, they appreciated all of my diverse experiences and that every time I was passionate about something I dove in and got involved.
Is there anything you wish you had known when you were in college?
When I graduated from college, I was so focused on the “big” picture of needing a job. Instead, I wish I had focused on taking the little steps to get there. Doing big things happens in small steps. It’s important to take the small steps- to do projects here and there, to keep a blog or volunteer- all of these small steps bring you closer to your bigger passions and goals.
How can we get involved with The Future Project?
A few ways!
1) Come to an event- We have our first “Future Hour” on Monday, August 8th – RSVP here: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=193845714007855
2) Apply to be a Future Coach here: http://thefutureproject.org/form-apply.shtml (Deadline is August 12th)
3) Follow us on Twitter (@MyFutureProject) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Future-Project/149990971733589)
4) Check out our website! (www.thefutureproject.com)