VOICE, ENCOURAGEMENT & ADVICE from family, friends, celebrities to help youth attain ReachWayHigher Mindsets for the long arc toward college

Photo of Paul Kim

Written by

#REACHWAYHIGHER  Any Time, Any Place, Any Path, Any Pace

CHECK OUT THE SLIDE DECK -- https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0PNQuyvsZEwWU1BNDBVM1dVcGM/view?usp=sharing

CONTRIBUTE TO THIS DOCUMENT -- https://docs.google.com/a/coloradoacademy.org/document/d/1Y-qPrfGFJvhCNaeLno7mdYTkD_xmJ9eV_PV3QVeYGOY/edit?usp=sharing

Related Ideas that ALREADY EXIST:  www.zeemee.com   www.youtube.com/watch?v=hligWNniHQA 


Immerse young people in MORE WORDS – 32 million words that form a web of stories, statistics, advice, encouragement, inspiration, information – to help them develop a #REACHWAYHIGHER mindset (supporting research below).

The idea here is to normalize and amplify supportive conversations about the diverse pathways individuals take toward higher education and beyond – there are many options, informal and formal, not just 4-year colleges.

The vehicle for the delivery of the WORDS would be a newly developed app or an existing platform like Snapchat, Facebook, or Twitter. Accessibility and popularity are the key metrics for whatever platform serves as the vehicle for the words that help young people #ReachWayHigher in life.

The word-web will form a custom zone of proximal development (see Vygotsky’s research) that helps each participant #ReachWayHigher.

POSSIBLE NAME -- SNAPPS (word play – to give someone snaps is to applaud them via a mobile app)


The #ReachWayHigher app will connect young people in real-world interactions as well as virtual pings (works, pictures, videos) with influential people who can support and encourage America’s youth – people like:

    - MICHELLE OBAMA!!! and other First Ladies

    - Barack Obama! and other US Presidents

    - local politicians

    - celebrities that are popular amongst young people

    - writers, musicians, and other artists

    - professional athletes

    - community leaders

    - alumni and other college students

    - family! grandparents, parents, siblings, aunties…

    - friends!


The fact that this is rooted in MOBILE technology means that it will be a CONSISTENT PRESENCE in the life of a young person. Having famous people engage on some sort of personal level will give it some cachet.

Possibilities for Prototypes

-- groupme text service

-- a group on Facebook


The daily life of a young person today is full of hyper-stimulating forces that emphasize immediate gratification and inhibit long term visioning.  By engaging with young people where they are on a mobile, digital platform, we can add into their zone of proximal development more of the factors that will help them #ReachWayHigher.


-- Psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley studied the actual number of words spoken to young children from families at different socioeconomic levels. They found that children in professionals’ homes were exposed to an average of more than fifteen hundred more spoken words per hour than children in welfare homes. Over one year, that amounted to a difference of nearly 8 million words, which, by age four, amounted to a total gap of 32 MILLION WORDS. They also found a substantial gap in tone and in the complexity of words being used. As they crunched the numbers, they discovered a direct correlation between the intensity of these early verbal experiences and later achievement.

Hart and Risley also found that, in the first four years after birth, the average child from a professional family receives 560,000 MORE INSTANCES OF ENCOURAGING FEEDBACK than discouraging feedback; a working-class child receives merely 100,000 more encouragements than discouragements; a welfare child receives 125,000 more discouragements than encouragements. (www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/03/the-32-million-word-gap/36856)

-- Lev Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development – a child follows an adult's example and gradually develops the ability to do certain tasks without help. Vygotsky believed that the role of education is to give children experiences that are within their zones of proximal development, thereby encouraging and advancing their individual learning.

-- Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone which begins with Baby College. http://hcz.org

-- ChapterBe is a collection of interviews and inspiration from people who are charting their own journeys to have careers and lives doing what they love. Many of the people interviewed are entrepreneurs and in their totality, they create a virtual “zone” for others to learn from and be inspired by. http://chapterbe.com

-- 826 Valencia (masterminded by writer Dave Eggers) and its east coast partner 826 NYC run Personal Statement Weekends with mentors for public school students who are working on college essays each October. http://826valencia.org/our-programs/scholarships  https://826nyc.org/program/collegereadiness

-- Beyond the educational applications of Lev Vygotsky’s work about cognitive growth in a zone of proximal development, we might argue that certain types of people in the larger world operate in similar “spaces” through which they learn new attitudes, norms, and behavior. It can be argued that many different groups use some sort of zone when they are engaging in a new, unfamiliar task. 


∙ best examples might be entrepreneurs. zones: Silicon Valley, incubator programs, start-up weeks, co-working spaces, conferences. via Harvard Business Review: Growing Up Near Startups Makes You More Likely to Be an Entrepreneur – People who grew up near a lot of startups are more likely to become entrepreneurs as adults, according to a study led by Luigi Guiso at the Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance. Using the broad definition of entrepreneur (one that includes the self-employed), the researchers looked at two datasets on Italian workers. They found that a one-standard-deviation increase in a location’s entrepreneurial firm density is associated with a 1.5-percentage-point increased likelihood of becoming an entrepreneur for those who grew up there. Conditional on becoming entrepreneurs, the same individuals are also more likely to be successful entrepreneurs, as measured by business income or firm productivity. A one-standard-deviation increase in firm density in the place you grew up also results in an 8% higher income. And firms run by entrepreneurs who grew up in areas with higher firm density have a higher total factor productivity and higher output per worker. These results support the view that entrepreneurial capabilities are at least partly learnable through social contacts, suggest the researchers.

∙ educators. zones: personal learning networks, faculty lounge, conference trends, The Teacher’s Guild (virtual)

∙ fantasy football leagues. zones: living rooms, bars, man caves

∙ book clubs. zones: living rooms, classrooms.

∙ identifier groups. zones: think Beverly Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

∙ any sort of meet-up

-- The University of Chicago is one of more than 80 top-tier colleges and universities that joined together to form the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success financial need or offering low in-state tuition.

The coalition’s approach will has two components that can be connected to this #ReachWayHigher idea:

* A digital locker, or online storage where students can store work they may like to include in their college application beginning in 9th grade, including written work as well as audio and video of performances or exhibitions

* A collaboration platform that allows students to share their application and essay with a coach or mentor to receive feedback and advice before submitting.

The Coalition will be a platform for school counselors to guide students through the process, and a free mobile app, Common App on Track, which will help remind students of upcoming application deadlines. While the coalition’s new application and collaboration platform promise to make the application process smoother and easier, exactly how the its free site will give lower-income students better access and equality to top-tier schools is a little less clear, except maybe to give students more information on schools they may not have heard of or assumed were out of their league academically or financially.

Have a doc or slides that you're collaborating in? Link it here.


Evaluation results

1 evaluation so far

1. Do you love this idea?

Yes! I love this idea! - 100%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ela Ben-Ur

Hi Paul!  I love this, as a lover of words, literacy, and inspiration. When I asked a group of students to do a quick design thinking exercise on something "on their mind" - that they're excited or stressed about.  Alongside the students stressed about an upcoming test was a girl SO excited that a celebrity (Tamar Braxton) retweeted her and designing how she might keep that going.  I wonder what the range of people might be who offer inspiration - I think of wonderfully inspiring and articulate folks like Will Smith, and so on.  And the larger statement of the importance of language in our culture and society. 

Photo of Paul Kim

Thanks Ela! As I recall, we met almost exactly one year ago in Boston at NAIS after the presentation I did with colleagues re: design thinking. I would hope that lots of celebrities would engage with a program like this to support young people in their journeys to #reachwayhigher.

Photo of Ela Ben-Ur

Of course I remember you :) And, I believe we have some mutual friends out there in Colorado. It was great to "see" you here!

Photo of Donna Teuber

Hi Paul, You're back with more amazing ideas! I would love to help as you work on this idea. I find myself snapping photos of encouraging posters and art work as I go through schools. I wonder how we could crowd source some of this and find a way to deliver customized messages to students based on their individual needs.

Photo of Paul Kim

Donna Teuber !  The great thing about a platform modeled on something like Snapchat is that you can upload photos and add text on top of them. And because the circle of contributors to an individuals "nexus of encouragement and empowerment" would be curated, my hope would be that there would be custom messages as well as more general messaging from FLOTUS, celebrities, and other leaders. 

Photo of Donna Teuber

Let's make this happen! I  keep thinking about how Google Now gives me notifications based on my calendar, etc. I wonder if encouragement could be customized based on a student profile?

Photo of Norka Padilla

Very important idea. This is how we close the gap! Excellent. Very powerful.

Photo of James Campbell

Hi Paul , I'm James one of the Guild Coaches.  I love where this idea is headed.  I was shocked a couple of years ago when I realized the word gap.  I love that you are targeting a variety of groups to share and get involved.  I wonder how we could encourage students to use the app.  What is your next step?

Photo of Paul Kim

James Campbell I think that young people would use the app once they see how they can share their progress and track the progress of friends.  If there is an app developer out there who could build something like this or if Snapchat and @FLOTUS partnered to make it happen, what a great tool for young people at this transitional time of #reachwayhigher. 

Photo of James Campbell

I think your right, once it catches on and students see the benefit it could open the doors to so many possibilities.  Does your school have tech classes that teach app development? I wonder if you could get students involved in developing it and have them test it with class mates.  

Photo of Andre Douglas

This is an awesome idea! Snapchat is definitely one of my go to methods for checking up on what went on in someone's day

Photo of Paul Kim

Andre Douglas Yes! the idea would be for people to be consistent and frequent in their check ins with young people along their journeys.

Photo of Dan Ryder

I'm loving the organic nature of this and you've clearly done some homework to give it that much more intention.  I'm wondering how tagging and other systems might be developed so students can find those stories that relate to their experience and serve their needs. 

Photo of Paul Kim

Dan Ryder I think geo-location and profile info would help curate and coordinate stories and support for young people on their own unique journeys.  THANKS!

Photo of Ashley Haskins

I like this idea a lot. Would the app be social? Would the app meet the student where they are in their journey and help them along the way? How would you test it out?

Photo of Paul Kim

Ashley Haskins the app would be social+ because it would have greater purpose + focus but also tap into the social to spread impact. Ideally, the app would have a sense of the users movement toward #reachwayhigher so that messaging would be appropriately responsive. Would love to see a tech company like Snapchat take this on as a part of its corporate social responsibility.  Testing already exists in one sense because we know the power of Facebook and Snapchat.  This is Facebook and Snapchat with focused purpose around social equity and youth empowerment for economic longevity.  THANKS ASHLEY!

Photo of Chris Good

Loving this idea, and the ramifications of every student having a "teacher in their pocket" ready to explore the world with them, experience by experience, and word by word.

Photo of Paul Kim

Chris Good YES! not just a teacher in the pocket but a "nexus of encouragement and empowerment" to explore #reachwayhigher in diverse and personalized contexts.