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Ideas and Solutions

Tackling Inequity From All Angles: The 2020 Social Innovation Award

This year’s semifinalists have launched a breadth of ventures for improving outcomes for students and communities.

April 21, 2020
Laura Zingg

Laura Zingg

Editorial Project Manager, One Day Studio

This moment of crisis has magnified the existing issues in our education system and under-resourced communities like never before.

At a time when our most vulnerable communities are disproportionately feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, many social ventures are providing vital support for communities in need

While our alumni and corps members are innovating at this particular moment to respond to this pandemic, we are proud that members of our network have been finding innovative solutions to address the inequities in their communities well before COVID-19 laid them bare. This month, we are excited to honor the social entrepreneurs in our network who are working to launch and grow the next big ventures that are improving outcomes for students and communities.

The Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Social Innovation Award helps to elevate and support the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders who are coming up with bold, new innovations that expand opportunities for students in low-income communities and address the root causes of educational inequity. Now entering its ninth year, this annual competition brings together alumni and corps member early-stage entrepreneurs to compete for up to $100,000 in funding to accelerate social ventures focused on eliminating barriers to educational equity and excellence. Winners also have the opportunity to join a supportive community of social innovation leaders and receive national and local recognition through Teach For America. 

This year’s group of semi-finalists represents both individuals and teams of entrepreneurs who are working at all levels of the education ecosystem to expand opportunities for students. Learn more about their ventures and big ideas for creating a more equitable future (we provided links to each venture’s website where available). And stay tuned for this year’s winner(s) to be announced in early June.


Instructional Resources & Teacher Support

Positive Physics Founder: Jack Replinger (Memphis ‘07)

Traditional teaching methods are not accessible to many students. Positive Physics combines a unique building block approach with an engaging platform to reach all students. Teachers can adapt the online curriculum to students’ individual learning styles, preparing them for college-level physics.

Jack Replinger

Liberate History Founder: Demetrius Hobson (Greater Chicago-Northwest Indiana ‘02)

Liberate History is a comprehensive digital repository of high-quality African American History instructional resources. The organization also facilitates professional development for teachers, schools, and districts and advocates for the inclusion of the African American experience in U.S. history for any student.

Demetrius Hobson

Teach X Founder: Tanysha Nunnally (Metro Atlanta ‘15)

Teach X trains teachers to design authentic learning experiences for students with the support of industry experts from in-demand career fields. Teachers can use the Teach X online learning platform to collaborate with a diverse community of experts and create discovery labs to prepare students with skills needed in the workforce.

Tanysha Nunnally

Social-Emotional Learning

KlickEngage Founder: Samantha Pratt (Miami-Dade ‘15)

KlickEngage is a social-emotional learning tool that amplifies student voice through virtual check-ins and equips teachers with the knowledge they need to support students. Students can use the app on their phones to rate how they are feeling and receive support, and teachers can track student wellbeing that they can use to provide early preventative services.

Samantha Pratt

School Systems Innovation

Edstruments Founder: Aditya Kaddu (Houston ‘12)

Edstruments is streamlining financial resource management for U.S. public schools so leaders can put their funds to work more efficiently, equitably, and transparently for all students. Schools can access data from their district's accounting system in an intuitive dashboard that allows leaders to more quickly and effectively make financial decisions.

Aditya Kaddu

School Board School Founder: Elisa Hoffman (Greater Delta ‘96)

School Board School empowers a diverse coalition of engaged citizens and aspiring school board members to create significant and sustainable change in their school system. Program participants attend board meetings, visit schools, and engage with education leaders so they are prepared to be effective school board leaders on day one.

Elisa Hoffman

College Access

Tilt Founder: Sinthuja Nagalingam (Los Angeles ‘14)

Tilt’s mission is to demystify college financial aid by helping students understand their loan packages and simplifying how students send their financial information to colleges. Students and families can use an intuitive online platform to apply for financial aid and receive 24/7 support in multiple languages.

Sinthuja Nagalingam

Community Development

For Dearborn Founders: Ali Fadlallah (Greater Delta ‘09), Rima Fadlallah (Detroit ‘14), Yasmeen Kadouh, and Malak Wazne

For Dearborn (4D) is a digital multi-media movement that elevates voices of Arab and Muslim youth that too often go unheard. The organization produces identity-affirming podcasts, articles, a fashion line, and offers workshops and scholarships to students in underperforming schools in Dearborn, Michigan.

Yasmeen Kadouh and Rima Fadlallah

Helix Chicago Founders: Caitlin Botsios (Greater Delta ‘12) and Sean Connolly

Helix works to solve the youth unemployment crisis in Chicago by opening small businesses that address a community need and employ and develop youth. Businesses serve as labs for youth who gain work experience, mentorship, and discover the inner workings of businesses by taking on real-world projects aligned to their interests.

Caitlin Botsios and Sean Connolly

The Marcy Lab School  Founders: Maya Bhattacharjee (New York ‘12) and Reuben Ogbonna (Metro Atlanta ‘12)

The Marcy Lab School creates economic mobility by training underestimated youth for the careers of the future. Recent high school graduates participate in a fellowship where they have access to academics, a support network, and a pathway into full-time employment in high-growth tech careers.

Maya Bhattacharjee and Reuben Ogbonna

MEND Founder: Rohit Agarwal (New York ‘08)

MEND seeks to level the playing field when it comes to who you know—an underlying driver behind positive educational and economic outcomes within communities. The organization aims to provide grants and low-interest loans to college grads and service workers, paired with purposeful mentorship.

Rohit Agarwal

Tulsa Changemakers Founders: Jake Lerner and Andrew Spector (both Greater Tulsa ‘15)

Tulsa Changemakers mobilizes Tulsa youth to make a positive impact in their city, state, and ultimately our country. The organization trains and supports educators to facilitate an afterschool civics program that empowers K-12 students attending low-income schools to lead change in their communities.

Jake Lerner and Andrew Spector

Social Justice

The Barnraisers Project Founder: Garrett Bucks (New Mexico ‘03)

The Barnraisers Project is the nation’s first-ever organizing effort to move white communities from roadblocks to partners in the work of racial justice and equity. The nonprofit partners with other national racial equity organizations to provide training and coaching for leaders in white communities to disrupt historic racism, bias, and white supremacy.

Garrett Bucks

Education Rights Counsel Founders: Elizabeth Eynon-Kokrda and Lauren Micek Vargas (New York ‘07)

The Education Rights Counsel advocates for educational equity for Nebraska’s most vulnerable children by removing legal barriers so all children stay in school and thrive. The organization provides legal representation, drives policy change, and advocates for families to secure the services their children need for their development, to succeed in school.

Lauren Micek Vargas and Elizabeth Eynon-Kokrda

Rural Opportunity Institute Founders: Vichi Jagannathan and Seth Saeugling (both Eastern North Carolina ‘11)

The Rural Opportunity Institute supports communities recovering from adversity and trauma by leading efforts to reshape historical practices and foster relationships. The organization works with institutions that serve children and families in rural Eastern North Carolina to design and pilot solutions that support community healing.

Vichi Jagannathan and Seth Saeugling

Five finalists will be chosen to participate in a virtual final interview day on May 11th and 12th. Winners will be announced in June. Learn more about The Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Social Innovation Award and meet some of our past winners.

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