Speaking of Passion-Driven Learning, Beth Schmidt sent us this guest post about the program she started to help passionate students reach their dreams!

More and more educators are recognizing the vital role that passion plays in a student’s education.
Even the brightest, most energetic kids can lose their interest in school, and it happens regularly when their classes don’t speak to their authentic passions. An aspiring engineer can be bored senseless in her algebra class even as she daydreams about an electric car she wants to design. The numbers don’t lie, either: 81% of high school dropouts report that they would have stayed in school if it had felt relevant to their lives.* How can we bridge this relevance gap in our education system?

We created Wishbone, a new non-profit organization, for this very purpose. Wishbone sends at-risk and low-income high school students to out-of-school programs so that they can pursue their authentic passions. We aggregate funding from foundations, corporations, and micro-donations on our website to send these students to their programs of choice at no cost to their families.

Here’s how it works: first, we identify promising low-income students with specific passions. We then help these students find and apply to high quality programs that fit their needs. We publish these students’ wishes on Wishbone.org, where donors can search by location or by a common interest to find students to support. Finally, once the wish is fully funded, the student will attend the program and keep donors updated with blog posts about his or her experience.

Wishbone serves all sectors of learning, from math and science to athletics and the arts. For many of our students, this is an opportunity to dive into an advanced topic that their school doesn’t have the resources to support. For instance, Jesus wants to attend the LEAD Computer Science Institute to study electrical engineering. Deshawna wants to attend the Health Sciences program at Ithaca Summer College to pursue her dream of becoming an obstetrician. Through Wishbone, they have their first opportunity to get outside of the standard curriculum and study exactly what inspires them. Meanwhile, donors have the chance to directly and transparently contribute to a student’s education and his or her life goals.

Our students have called these opportunities “a dream come true,” “the experience of a lifetime” and “essential for finding the right college and the right job.” For these students, their program experiences go far beyond summer fun. They recognize that this is their chance to learn the skills that they crave, meet a new community of peers and mentors, and take major steps toward college and their dream jobs.

Wishbone exists to help underserved students meet these personal goals. But even though we’re a mission-driven organization, you can also think of Wishbone as an experiment in compassion. Some of our students have never had the opportunity to travel outside of their hometowns. What will happen when a student attends a program in a new part of the country, maybe even on the campus of her dream college? Some of our students have had to face incredible hardship with very little support. How will their outlooks on life change when complete strangers help send them to a new community that shares their passions? How much positive change can grow from the small seed of a single donation?

We’re here to find out. It’s our passion to connect motivated students to the opportunities that will keep them engaged in learning, launch them toward college, and bring them closer to their dream careers. We’re betting that when the authentic passions of students are fueled by the compassion of donors in the public, education will take on a whole new dimension. Join us on Wishbone.org to try it out for yourself!

Thank you Beth, for doing your part to inspire young learners to reach their genius potential!

Check out this amazing video about all the work Wishbone has done.


* http://www.ignitelearning.com/pdf/TheSilentEpidemic3-06FINAL.pdf