Novelly mentor chat

Reimagining civic education through digital mentoring

Photo of Kyra Campbell
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Additional categories (optional)

  • Technology

Date You Started Your Project Started

September 22 2019

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

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

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

Recent results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that only 23% of 8th graders in the US are proficient in civics. This creates a civic engagement gap where we as young people are less visible and less heard as citizens. This gap is further widened if we look at students who come from low-income, minority and marginalized communities. This has far-reaching impacts on equity.

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

Currently, the Novelly app facilitates fun civic education for middle and high school students through these features: First, you can read young adult stories that touch on social issues. Then, you complete learning activities embedded in the readings that engage you with the issues. Then, you are linked to concrete opportunities to take action. As the Youth Designers of Novelly, we are proposing an additional app feature called the “mentor chat,” where you can open up one-on-one chats on the app with a pre-screened and trained Novelly mentor. This mentor can be a staff member (or we can open this up to college student volunteers). This feature would allow you to ask the mentor questions, discuss the readings and issues, collaborate with the mentor on ideas to take action, and hold each other accountable on those actions. Ultimately, the mentor is there to guide you if you need help working through your thoughts and emotions on an issue, if you need someone to help you find what you are passionate about, or if you already know what you’re interested in and just need someone to give you guidance and ideas. Your mentor should also text you back that same day.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I am a leader in Girl Up and they posted about this non-profit that wanted to reimagine civic education for kids - I was intrigued! I reached out to get involved and started as a product interviewee. Novelly asked me about my life and over the course of a few months, they presented different ideas, including what is now the Novelly app. I have always cared about social issues, especially immigrant rights, but I have struggled to find concrete ways to learn and get involved. Novelly seemed like the perfect solution. I was and still am excited about the process of creating something new and having my thoughts and ideas valued at Novelly. Now, as their youngest ever member of the Board of Directors, it is my job to shake things up and to keep pushing and shaping our work so that we accomplish our goal, which is to spark the next Greta Thunberg, Emma Thunberg and other young changemakers.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

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

For example, let’s say that there is a 14 year old girl named Maya. She lives near me in Virginia, but she goes to a school where civic education is not taught. She identified as black. She has heard about Black Lives Matter and is concerned about police brutality. She wants to talk about it but she doesn’t know who to talk to about it. Maya is also a Novelly app user. She reads a new story on the app about a teenage girl who witnesses a shooting of an unarmed black man. Maya opens up the mentor chat feature and tells the Novelly mentor how the story made her feel. The mentor walks her through her reactions and sends resources that she might be interested in. The mentor, who is also black, makes her feel like her thoughts matter, that she isn’t alone and that she can talk about something so uncomfortable. Maya is inspired to start a similar conversation with her friends and family.

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

When thinking about how we become civically engaged, we realized that for many of us, it was our parents, teachers, older siblings and older friends (essentially mentors) who helped us. This new feature would make mentoring for civic engagement super accessible, because we can use it on our phones and without too much of a time commitment. We also are using literature that we already love as a starting point, which makes it easier to build stronger mentor-mentee relationships and engaging conversations.

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

Our project has witnessed the growth of one of our Youth Designers, Catherine Martinez. Cat was also one of the earliest prototype testers and she is now the Head Youth Designer and one of our most dedicated team members. She is 17 years old and a proud Latina bookworm from Southern California. The Novelly app enabled her to read fiction that reflected her, find the inherent worth and power in her story and tell it. At 13 years old, Cat was the victim of racially motivated harassment and physical assault. Novelly helped her process and unpack her fear and outrage that anti-immigrant sentiment can harm children and that she is seeing this happening again today. Through Novelly, she has found an outlet for her story and a pathway to empowerment and immigration activism and we hope to create that same pathway for other students in the United States.

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

We are focusing on partnerships! We can start off with our team acting as mentors, but eventually, we will need to partner with college students as mentors. We also need to partner with organizations that work with middle and high school students so that we can get the word out about this new feature. For now, we can work with our existing tools, WhatsApp and Instagram, but we want to use the funding for software development. This way, the feature is easily available for Novelly users.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Web/Mobile Development

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

  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Other

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 33.3%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 66.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 100%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Renee Aziz

Hey! I love this idea, and I wish I had an app like this when I was younger! Engaging in civics is something that I would have really liked to be involved in during my middle school years, and I'm glad you're making it available to today's youth!

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