Dual School

Empowering Students to Launch Passion Projects

Photo of Zack Jones
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Written by

Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

dualschool.com www.facebook.com/dualschoolDE/

Date Started

October / 13 / 2017

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

I'm stepping up to make change because every student deserves the opportunity to believe that their ideas matter and that they can be leaders. I've spent a lot of time playing sports, taking classes and running extracurricular programs, and of everything I've seen in the world, I believe Dual School is the best way to help any student change they way they see themselves. We are consistently able to help students explore a passion while developing a conviction that their voice can make a difference. If we could empower all students to see themselves as creative problem solvers, imagine the issues we could tackle as a society. I'm committed to creating that world.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Our education system isn't giving the next generation the skills they need to make change. Thus, most students don't believe they can solve the problems they face in their lives. The problem persists because most schools prioritize delivering content, rather than creating empowering learners. If we can reframe education to emphasize creative problem solving and community impact, we will unlock an enormous amount of potential.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Dual School is a student idea incubator. We work with high school students from public, private and charter schools in the Wilmington, Delaware area to empower them to launch passion projects. Students apply to our 10 week program with a problem they want to solve, or a project they want to work on. When they enter Dual School, they attend a two day kickoff weekend to build community and develop the necessary creative mindset to be successful on their project. We then pair students with mentors and meet every week for ten weeks to give students the skills and support they need to move forward with their ideas. All students launch blogs where they write reflections and share information about their projects. Throughout the ten weeks students engage with experts, test prototypes and prepare for a public exhibition. The ten week program culminates with a showcase of student work attended by 100+ members of the community. Students have the opportunity to share their projects, gather support and strengthen their belief that their ideas matter.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Andres was a sophomore in high school who wanted to do a project that would make life better for immigrants living in Delaware. He had a passion for the cause, but he had no idea how to start making his impact. With the help of Dual School’s network of mentors, he started setting up phone calls and meetings with real-world experts working at local non-profits. Not only did he learn a lot from these conversations, but in one of his meetings, an organization offered him the opportunity to lead a project about sharing cultures during the holiday season. Through his relationship with this organization, Andres was connected with a refugee family from Afghanistan who just moved to America. He learned about the family's hopes for the holiday season and delivered a memorable first holiday season for this family by coordinating several experiences like ice skating and homemade dinners.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Dual School is different because it is built to plug into all existing schools. We work with public, private and charter schools to deliver an extraordinary educational experience to all students. Dual School's goal is to build capacity that will catalyze broad and equitable improvement in the education system locally. We work with students, but are starting to train educators to create empowering learning experiences in their own classrooms. We are taking a grassroots approach to changing education by igniting students, teachers and administrators to believe in a more empowering future.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We worked with 13 students in the fall of 2017 and we currently serve 30 students during the spring of 2018. Of the 43 total students we have served, 22 are girls of color. We've created a program that attracts students from diverse socioeconomic, educational and racial backgrounds. All student projects have an aspect of social impact in them. Students are addressing problems like mental health in school, gender equality, sustainable energy technology, implicit bias, immigrant injustice and access to education in third world countries. Projects take many different forms. For example, one student developed a curriculum to be used in homeroom classes to reduce prejudice between students. Another student is advocating for policy change to protect the environment in Delaware. Another team is developing a more robust support system for recent immigrants to adjust to new schools.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

In the spring of 2018 we launched a partnership with William Penn high school, a large public school in the area. We ran our program at their location with great success and next fall we will be launching as an official class. We will be training a teacher to deliver our framework and empower students to launch passion projects during the school day. Students will be getting school credit to work on their passions! This is our model of change. We will continue training both students and educators to create empowering spaces within their existing contexts. In June we are launching a Facilitation Academy for both our alumni and local educators to learn the fundamentals of design thinking and facilitated collaboration.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

We have been lucky to get seed funding from a local philanthropist, but we have no long term commitments for additional resources. Currently we run our programming out of a room in a local co-working space which has been gifted, although we will soon have to start paying for that space also. I work on this project full time, and we have several people working part time. By hosting professional development opportunities for local schools this summer, we hope to start generating revenue that offsets some of our costs. We expect those revenue streams to take 12-18 months to develop and will need some gap funding to keep the organization running in the meantime.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations over $10k

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

On a local level, we are supported by students, parents and educators in the Wilmington, Delaware area. We are also tapping in to the University of Delaware (UD) to provide us with mentors for our high school students. In the past year we have engaged 12 mentors from UD and 8 mentors from the broader community. Our mentors are students, teachers, entrepreneurs, non-profit leaders and more. Our end of semester exhibitions are well attended by families, business leaders, school administrators and members of local government. We have a few significant national thought partners who have been instrumental in launching the program. We work with Blue Dot Education, a group of teachers from the famed project-based learning school, High Tech High. Along with the GripTape Learning Challenge, Blue Dot Education helped us develop the initial concept of Dual School to be as empowering as possible for students. We are also exploring a relationship with PeaceFirst.org, an organization committed to helping young people solve social justice problems. We have several of our students signed up for their platform and some have received mini-grants of $250 to further their projects.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Logan Herring


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ariyan Miller

Hey There Fellow Changemaker,

Congrats on moving to the next phase. I wishing you the best of luck ! & I am sending love and light to all the positive things that you do.

Photo of Sophie Howery

I really love this idea! Very creative! Engaging the youth in society is crucial as is giving them the resources to do so. I would love to potentially work with you in the future, as my project works to provide the resources and connections for young members of society to engage with government officials and other changemakers.

Photo of Zack Jones

Thanks Sophie! One of the founding team members was a former education policy advisor and is very passionate about helping youth get involved in politics. Would love to chat more! My email is zack at dualschool dot com

Photo of Shuba Prasadh

I absolutely love this. As a youth who is currently in school, I understand the problems firsthand that we face as this generation's students. Thank you for doing this, and good luck with this project in the future!

Photo of Zack Jones

Thank you Shuba! Best of luck with your project also

Photo of Shreya Parjan

Hi Zack! I'm doing some similar work helping students become changemakers in their communities (https://goo.gl/rZ4rCp) and I would love to talk to you more about innovation in education. Feel free to send me a message!

Photo of Zack Jones

Thanks Shreya! I just commented on your project with some info. Hope to talk soon!

Photo of Sierra RyanWallick

Keep it up, Zack! I love your program because it's actually changing lives by providing hands on experience for students to pursue their ideas!

Photo of Zack Jones

Thank you Sierra!

Photo of Anastasia Walton

Love it! Please continue to help our youth flourish.

Photo of Zack Jones

Thank you Anastasia!

Photo of Carson McBain

Zack, what you're doing through Dual School is sorely needed, as students don't normally have the opportunity or the time to launch a social change project at school. I'm very inspired to see so many students benefiting from your school! How do you keep track of the students after the 10 weeks are over? I feel like this is a really powerful network of young changemakers who could benefit from staying connected with each other after the 10 weeks are over. Also, how much do the students pay to join the program? Ideally it would be good if students from low-income families could attend too. With more funding and support, have you considered training others and expanding these schools into other states? This model would work well all over the US, so I'm curious to see how you grow in the future. Keep up the vital work you're doing!

Photo of Zack Jones

Hi Carson, great questions! After the 10 week program, we have many opportunities for alumni engagement. Aside from a quarterly reunion pizza party, some of our alumni serve as mentors in future cohorts of Dual School. Others participated in our Facilitation Academy, which was a 2-day design thinking and leadership training. And we've hired two of our alumni as paid interns over the summer!
The program is free for students specifically so we can attract students from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. We're exploring a model where schools pay for the programming to be implemented, but we plan to always keep programming free to the individual students.
We're just starting to think about scale around training the trainer. We're launching a pilot at a public high school in the fall where Dual School is a class in the school day led by a teacher at the school. We're interested in creating deep, sustainable change in the Wilmington, Delaware area first, but once we nail the model, we would explore scaling to other states.
Thanks for the comment!