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Education innovation prize winners recall early struggles

A college provost whose innovative program for helping students succeed won the judges’ award in a Lumina Impact Ventures contest said she’s been inspired by her early teaching experience at Miami Dade College.

“I taught a course that most students dread, chemistry — a course that not only requires them to put in the time in class but also a lot of hours outside of class to really master the material,” said Lenore Rodicio, now the school’s executive vice president and provost.

Miami Dade College’s Accelerated Credentials Training and Skills (MDC ACTS) program won $25,000 for the Judges’ Choice Award on Tuesday at the 2019 Education Innovation Prize challenge sponsored by Lumina Impact Ventures. The national competition encourages development of products and services that can make learning after high school available to more Americans.

Earlier: “Pitching for change: Early-stage companies seek social impact, investors”

Students overwhelmed

Rodicio remembers that on the first day of class she would have the students fill out a planner, writing in all the hours they would spend at college, the hours they would need to study, their work hours and then anything else they planned — things like taking their children to school or taking care of elderly parents.

“I would have students come to my office in tears because they couldn’t balance it all,” she said.

“They had to make decisions. And sadly, a lot of times the decision was, ‘I’m going to take fewer courses so I can work more hours. And all that does is extend the time to degree for them.”

Video: Lenore Rodicio, executive vice president and provost, Miami Dade College

 

School memories fueled his passion

Knack, a mobile platform supporting peer-to-peer academic counseling and student support, won $25,000 for the Audience Choice Award.

Co-founder and CEO Samyr Qureshi said he was inspired by his own struggles in school.

“I’m a first-generation immigrant, and from a young age I was told that I was going to be on a poor academic track,” he said.

His mother steered him into tutoring, mentoring, sports, and a busy schedule of co-curricular activities. He began to excel, earned a four-year degree and worked at a couple of tech companies.

“I attribute a lot of my successes to the opportunities to be immersed in those experiences where I was being tutored and mentored — and then on the flip side because I began tutoring and mentoring others,” he said.

She needed a cause

The runner-up, the Amarillo Area Foundation’s No Limits No Excusesprogram, received $5,000 as a finalist.

The program is developing a mobile app to connect students with counselors, volunteer mentors, advisors and employers, with the idea of providing vital community support to help learners succeed.

Leeann Kossey Overstreet, program officer for No Limits No Excuses, said too few young people are getting quality credentials, and too many residents are living in poverty.

“They need encouragement from every corner of their community,” she said. “It truly takes a village. GoPlan 2.0 mobile app is the tool that brings the village to each individual. It connects the users to their employers, educators, community mentors and other support services.”

Prizes recognize need for attainment growth

We started the Education Innovation Prize three years ago as part of Lumina Impact Ventures, our initiative to identify and invest in solutions that improve attainment for underrepresented populations of students think low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, working adults, and first-generation students.

These 21st-century students are no longer the exception to the American education system. They’re the norm. And if we’re to keep up with the needs of an ever-changing economy, these students need new pathways to reach some form of post-secondary attainment.

Why? According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, two-thirds of all jobs created in this decade will require some form of postsecondary education. By recognizing and investing in these entrepreneurial avenues, we’ll make sure they can help contribute to our main goal — to increase the proportion of working-age Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates, and other credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025.

“The Education Innovation Prize challenge is just one of the tools we’re using to attract new ideas, encourage collaboration, and spark creativity in how we collectively approach solutions to the challenge that not enough adults have the skills and credentials they need to meet the demands of the future labor market,” said Elizabeth Garlow, investment office of Lumina Impact Ventures.

“Each year, this competition allows us to expand our network and accelerate progress by helping entrepreneurs who are already working to create new pathways to and within higher education scale their ideas to reach more learners.”

Through these organizations and investments, Lumina hopes to help build an education system that is easy to navigate for students of all backgrounds, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials.

To learn more about the winners, visit: https://luminaprize.innovationchallenge.com/winners

To learn more about Lumina Impact Ventures and the foundation’s portfolio investees, visit www.luminafoundation.org/lumina-impact-ventures.

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Tracy Chen
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