Wishbone: A Platform for Student Passions

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.

[vimeo clip_id=”38342797″]


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


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  • Mrsmasonsowls

    Hello Ms. Maiers. My name is Christie Mason and I am a student majoring in Dr. John Strange’s EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. Reed Matheney is truly inspirational to construct a plan which plants a seed of enthusiasm, hope, and courage in young students. My daughter had a 6th grade science teacher who made the room say in unison “Would you like fries with that? What kind of sauce do you want with your nuggets?” This was her way of relating to her students that she did not feel they would accomplish anything and that perfecting those comments would be better preparation for their future. I WAS LIVID!! This was a college preparatory middle school, and this was her approach? If only we had only more teachers who valued individuality and helped students find their passion and interests. 

    Every student you teach may not go to college, but it shouldn’t be because they heard from you that they weren’t good enough or wouldn’t succeed. Teachers can make a difference in a students education and future.  Low-Income and Upper-Income students should have the same opportunities and encouragement. I agree and hope your philosophy spreads rampantly. Thanks for sharing your positive energy, planning, example, and success stories. 

    Please feel free to visit my class blog at edm310.blogspot.com, or my personal blog at masonchristinaedm310.blogspot.com
    Twitter @christiemason1

  • Makenzie Cunningham

    Hello Ms. Maiers. My name is Makenzie
    Cunningham and I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 at the University of
    South Alabama. I have been assigned to your blog for the next week, and I have
    to say I am really learning so much already. I love the idea of the Wishbone
    organization. It gives so many opportunities to impoverished students. I do
    have a question; does this program happen during the summer or during the
    school year? I love this idea! Once I finish my education I hope to sponsor one
    of the students through the Wishbone organization. 

    Thank you so much for sharing your
    organization to us. I agree with Christie Mason, they all might not go to
    college; however this is giving them a chance in life they may have not got. We
    would love for you to visit our  class blog or my
    for EDM 310


    Thanks again,

    Makenzie Cunningham 

  • James and Brittany Defalco

    Hi!  My name is Brittany DeFalco and I am a student at the Universtiy of South Alabama.  I will be following your blog for the next few weeks and commenting on two of your posts.  Then, I will be posting on  my blog with a summary of your posts and my comments.
    I found Beth’s idea of Wishbone to be very interesting and exciting.  I think it is really awesome that students are given this kind of opportunity to help them succeed in the future.  It is important that she pointed out that not many students do have the opportunity to learn outside of the world they are limited to due to finances.  This is a great learning barrier breaker.  I’m not sure if I were given an opportunity like this what I would chose.  I’ve always been passionate about my faith and dreamed of being married with a family.  I suppose if I were given the opportunity I would have chosen something to help me grow in my faith.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Brittany DeFalco

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