What impact have you had?
I am a committed scholar-educator in the process of attaining a doctoral degree in Leadership in Urban Schools. I have been in public education for twelve years, serving students in a variety of capacities with the goal of supporting and positively impacting their aspirations to attend college. I teach Master’s level students in Boston University’s Counseling Department and strive to improve the profession at every turn. Over time, I have had the pleasure of participating in the lives of approximately 2000 high school and graduate students, but for the past six years, I have dedicated my energy to working with students from low-income households. More than anything, I want to see them extricate themselves from the cycle of poverty by attaining a college degree. This passion has driven my professional work and has served as my motivation to impact an entire population—not just a handful of students.
I began my career as a guidance counselor, serving 200 students each year from diverse populations. From there, I helped launch Harvard University’s Crimson Summer Academy, a program designed to serve high achieving students from low-income households. Currently, as Director of College Access and Transition, I lead a team of counselors who are responsible for assisting students with their postsecondary planning. During my tenure, we have instilled a strong college-going culture in the flagship high school of a national network of over 80 urban public high schools. My next step is to launch CollegeSnapps, so that I can fulfill my ultimate goal.
We have taken several steps towards making this innovation a success. First, we have created a Limited Liability Corporation in order to name and structure our organization. We have also developed, with the help of a highly established entrepreneur, a business plan for use with investors, grant applications, and other funding streams. We have researched some of the technology available to deliver our product and have begun work on a prototype to roll out in the next six months. In order to protect our invention, we spoke with a patent attorney and submitted a provisional patent application.
Failure is not an option for us. Because of the nature of our project and the dire need, we are committed to seeing this through to implementation. We believe that our project’s ability to produce widespread change will draw out other organizations that are interested in being a part of our mission.
We have set an aggressive timeline for ourselves, which depends on our ability to garner support, both financially and systemically. We believe that with a solid business plan and the connections we already have in the industry, we can convince investors and institutions that CollegeSnapps has the ability to serve the needs of students, guidance counselors and colleges alike. Based upon the work we have done thus far, we have leads on a number of funding streams and believe that we can create and roll out a beta prototype for the fall of 2010. Doing so will allow us to begin working with a small group of students in time for the upcoming college application season, during which time we will collect data in order to assess both the viability of the program as well as address the areas that need attention and further development.
What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.
Over the next three years we intend to take CollegeSnapps from initial development to nationwide deployment. In order for this scaling to occur, our product must effectively respond to the unanswered need that resonates from high schools across the country. CollegeSnapps will go through a formative and iterative design process to ensure that it remains responsive to both the initial and evolving needs of our users. Success will also be contingent upon acquiring endorsement and support from “college application stakeholders” such as parents, guidance counselors, and college admissions officers.
Year one will be focused on developing the SMS technology, and the questions/support protocol that students will then experience over the course of their application process. An Alpha prototype will be in the hands of student focus groups by the beginning of July. Results from this initial study will guide the development of the Beta iteration. This second draft must be ready for distribution and use at the beginning of the 2010/2011 school year. A medium-scale implementation will occur at five urban high schools and impact 500 students.
Year two, we will continue the formative design process of our SMS servers, while also working to identify morally appropriate revenue streams to support the continuation of our work. We will also initiate an outreach campaign to promote CollegeSnapps through social media to guidance counselors and college admissions offices. We will also transition into the commercial application scene, and begin to develop platform specific apps. for top selling mobile phones (iPhone, Google’s Android, and Windows Mobile).
Instead of expanding our offerings concurrently in year three, we will instead redouble our efforts to conduct user studies and focus groups in an effort to streamline CollegeSnapps, avoiding complication, and instead crafting a streamlined platform that cleanly scaffolds users through the application process.
What would prevent your project from being a success?
This project’s success would result in a dramatic increase in the number of students from low-income households that apply to and enroll in socially responsible institutions of Higher Education. This is contingent upon a comprehensive design that is aligned with the needs of our users, that responds well to the desires of our secondary stakeholders, and that can be supported in a financially stable manner without deviation from the moral underpinnings of our organizational goals.
CollegeSnapps must simplify the application process, while also working to extrinsically motivate students to engage in an complicated sequence of critical steps that are necessary for enrollment (e.g. taking a college entrance exam, completing the college application or filing for financial aid). Therefore the platform must be both engaging and educational. The key here is simplification, if our product complicates the application process, CollegeSnapps could become a deterrent to the application process.
While the design must be initially drafted to meet the needs of our primary stakeholders (students), it must also meet the needs of the secondary stakeholders (parents, high school guidance counselors, and college admissions officers). Student access and awareness of CollegeSnapps is likely to be driven by the latter group, so it is crucial that we integrate their needs into our organizational goals and the design of our service. We must also work to ensure that CollegeSnapps does not aggravate the existing divide between student and counselor, and instead works to bridge that gap by facilitating communication.