Branch Out

Breathe life into education, breach barriers to innovation.

Photo of Shreya Parjan
58 36

Written by

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

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

07/05/2001

Where are you located:

Branch Out is proudly based in Patterson, California.
Our primary impact areas include:
California: Patterson (95363), East San Jose (95148) | Massachusetts: Chelsea (02150), Roxbury (02119)
Our own network of changemakers also extends to Oregon, Montana, Virginia, Minnesota, Washington, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.

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

Website: http://branchoutedu.weebly.com/
Facebook: @branchoutedu

Date Started

11/2014

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

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

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 wish we had something like this when I was growing up.” I will never forget when a parent helplessly confessed this to me while we discussed one of Branch Out's earliest programs at a small library in East San Jose. I experienced the impact of educational inequality first hand when I briefly attended school in the Silicon Valley after moving from Portland, Oregon. I was far behind my classmates because I lacked long-term, unrestricted access to the region’s wealth of opportunity. But most startling to me was that inequality did not even spare neighborhoods just miles away from these wealthy communities. This was when I realized the extent of educational inequality across the United States. I founded Branch Out because no student deserves to feel helpless because of factors and barriers out of their control. In my work, every student is a changemaker.

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

Students at underserved schools face barriers to making the change they need most.
PREPARATION
Schools often lack the advising or extracurricular support for students to become skilled voices for community change.
INSTABILITY
Existing programs are often vulnerable and short-term solutions to a pervasive issue.
VOICELESSNESS
Underserved areas are forced to compete to speak their needs, silencing student voices while perpetuating inequality.

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

Branch Out helps students bring change to their communities and offers them the resources to actualize that change. Our model is simple, sustainable, and supports underserved communities by putting their perspectives first:
EMPATHIZE
Before implementing any program, curriculum, or service, we conduct a needs assessment of the community we plan to serve. We honor the importance of including a network of teachers, administrators, and local partners to create community-appropriate resources, not quick fixes.
EMPOWER
Next, we determine what is most effective, whether helping teachers strengthen curricula, improving student outcomes with new technology, or offering social innovation programs, workshops, and mentoring.
Placing underserved communities at the center of our mission means that we listen when they speak and honor the power of the youth perspective, one that's often neglected in debates surrounding reform. Students then think critically about issues they're eager to address and innovate with a community to serve in mind.
EXTEND
Finally, we help students and educators form local chapters and partnerships to join our growing network of community-centered innovation.

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

A school district in California's Central Valley reached out to us with a simple request: how can they get elementary schoolers caring about water conservation after a severe drought? We first examined existing curriculum on water resource management and found that 1) these programs were not unique to the community or tackling Next Generation Science Standards and 2) the county water district did not educate students about local water issues. Reaching out to a water district in the Silicon Valley, we learned what made their educational programs a success. We then developed a water reclamation challenge combining NGSS engineering standards, design thinking, and discussion about local water management policy. It was piloted in a 5th grade class and catalyzed the district’s environmental action campaign. We are now lobbying for the local water district to offer students more resources.

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

We are not the solution to a problem or the sole voice for change. Simply, Branch Out is a platform elevating existing community voices instead of speaking over them. We know community members can solve community problems if they can connect experience and identity to innovation. We revitalize education in marginalized areas by helping the very people it impacts most, students, engage with interdisciplinary networks spanning STEAM, policy, and activism to affect the change they wish to see. We are born from public schools, for public schools. We are multifaceted because education is too.

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

All of our programs are free of cost. In 2014, we partnered with the Girls STEAM Institute to offer the Astra STEAM Summit, a two-day scholarship competition for girls ages 12-17 to receive mentorship from industry leaders and start social enterprises. Four additional summits have been held, awarding over $100k in scholarships. Our alumni have gone on to schools like MIT, Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon. In 2016, we launched urban camps, make-a-thons, and summits teaching low-income students K-12 everything from public policy to rocketry. By 2017, our rural education campaigns and curricular consulting service were bringing innovation directly into schools with apps improving counseling and new teaching tools and trainings. We have served over 200 students and now work with them to develop sustainable, community-centric programs and chapters with local public and private sector partners.

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

We began as two girls working out of a small library. Our growing movement of grassroots education reform is building:
HIGHER ED PIPELINES. We are working with colleges in CA, OR, and MA on how our programs can identify and prepare promising candidates that traditional admissions may overlook.
CHAPTERS. With hundreds of program alumni, we're training students to build a sustainable network of college and high school chapters bringing community-oriented change to where they see need around them.
OUTREACH WITH IMPACT. Leading entrepreneurs want to develop more innovation challenges and global scholarship programs with us. We're also creating civic engagement curricula to combat polarization with effective discourse and advocacy.

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

You’ve given us the Changemaker Challenge, we’ll take our innovative curriculum and, together, build more changemaking communities. We want to partner with you, T-Mobile & Ashoka, to make challenges like this accessible to students with the most to gain: those who feel most powerless in today’s classrooms. Our vision is one where schools don’t obstruct budding changemakers and help children challenge inequality rather than succumb to it. Funding us funds grants for chapters building great programs, brings portable innovation stations to resource-poor schools, and helps us add more diversity of perspective and background in our core team. Mentoring us mentors our youth network and keeps Branch Out not only sustainable, but scalable.

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

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

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.

Young people are at the center of all of our work because we see them as the center of education. Our entire program is run by students not only for students, but for the communities that we are a part of because Branch Out is a diverse initiative that isn’t confined to a single subject, idea, or identity. This challenge has already given us access to an incredible network of innovators addressing issues that impact themselves or those around them.
So, we want to form a youth advisory network of distinguished changemakers under Branch Out. We believe that everyone who enters this challenge is already a changemaker and are reaching out to our fellow applicants to build this network. Some have even expressed interest in bringing Branch Out to their schools, but our goal is also to support their own endeavors and encourage them to speak out about their journey as student innovators. Together, we will amplify the voices of changemakers on the rise, increase awareness of opportunities like this, and create them where they do not exist.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • LGBTQ community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media

Evaluation results

39 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 79.5%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 15.4%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 5.1%

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%! - 92.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 5.1%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 2.6%

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

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 74.4%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 17.9%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 5.1%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 2.6%

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 - 8.3%

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

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 2.8%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 82.1%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 12.8%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 2.6%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 2.6%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

58 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Diane McClelland
Team

Shreya,

The Branch Out program you developed mirrors the Girls S.T.E.A.M. Institute's goals to provide education and mentoring to young girls in low income and rural areas. We also importantly work with their parents to inform them of the tremendous opportunities in S.T.EA.M. industries. We look forward to our growing partnership with Branch Out.

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Precisely! A huge part of what we do is building a network for students to tap into, be it through local businesses and governments or educators. Equipping parents with the skills to support their students is another essential component of this mission.

Photo of Zack Jones
Team

Shreya, this sounds like an amazing program! Thanks for your comment on my project. I'd love to talk more. Feel free to send me an email at zack at dualschool dot com!

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Hi Zack! Thanks for reaching out, I'll definitely be in touch.

Photo of Sravya Alla
Team

This is so amazing! Enrichment is something that we rarely think of, and Branch Out is truly a unique approach. Helping students to be engaged from early on will help students to be more successful, help to close the achievement gap, and to get students prepared for their future.

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thanks for your support! I noticed that one of Peerlift's goals is getting educational materials directly to schools, something that Branch Out is well-versed in. Do let us know if you'd like to join forces on this!

Photo of Ariyan Miller
Team

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 Shreya Parjan
Team

Thanks and same to you! It's inspiring seeing the work that you're doing and we would love to connect with you to discuss possible partnerships to engage students in under-served communities.

Photo of Diane McClelland
Team

We are very excited about partnering with Shreya and Claire with this well-thought out project they developed as graduates of our Astra S.T.E.A.M. Summit, now Girls S.T.E.A.M. Summit. There is such a need to provide inspiration and hope to young girls to see themselves as an answer and solution to the world's problems through their innovation and creativity.

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

As always, thanks for your support Diane! We're looking forward to expanding our work and impact with GSI in the months to come.

Photo of Emily
Team

Such an amazing program that will for sure help the community in many ways :)

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thanks! We're excited to continue supporting underserved educational communities :)

Photo of Ning
Team

Very passionate team dedicated to inspire young students to gain interests in STEM.

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thanks for supporting us along the way!

Photo of arran
Team

great job you guys!!

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thank you! Your support means a lot

Photo of jason
Team

Awesome changemaking. I really think you all will go on to do great things in education.

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thank you so much!

Photo of Matt
Team

What an awesome program - keep up the great work :)

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thanks and will do! We're excited to keep branching up and out to impact more students throughout their educational careers.

Photo of Darren
Team

You two are awesome, so inspiring to see community actions like this born at a young age continue to sprout into further growth.

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thank you so much! We really owe it to the tireless support of educators and our community partners.

Photo of Sabrina
Team

Love what you're doing for the underrepresented youth!!! Youth education is so important..

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Agreed! Thanks for helping us make innovation accessible to all students.

Photo of Raj
Team

Excellent

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thank you!

Photo of lucy
Team

Shreya is one of the most capable people I know, I have faith that she will only continue to expand Branch Out!

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thanks for supporting us, Lucy!

Photo of Noah
Team

Very compelling presentation and interesting premise. Thanks for highlighting this issue. Keep up the good work, Shreya!

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thanks for your support!

Photo of Nisha
Team

It is a great perspective and a great initiative

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

We really appreciate your support!

Photo of Sandra Osei-Frimpong
Team

This I great! My high school is trying to bridge this divide but their methods are different from yours.

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thank you! I'd love to hear what methods your school is employing as well.

Photo of Nicole Ntim-Addae
Team

What amazing things Wellesley Women do! Keep up the good work

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Will do! Thanks for supporting us.

Photo of Amanda H.
Team

It's really cool to see your commitment through high school and into the present, hope to see more good things from you soon!

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thanks! This opportunity would go a long way in supporting Branch Out's rural education programs.

Photo of Karen Hamm
Team

Your passion and commitment is going to make a difference for the under-served, Shreya!

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thank you so much! Of course, it really is a team effort involving so much collaboration between students, educators, and community businesses/organizations.

Photo of Hannah Hilgeman
Team

This is wonderful! I am so glad that students are recognizing the issue of education inequality and are taking concrete steps to fix this problem.

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thanks, Hannah! Our work really comes to amplifying the voices of those who have always been speaking out: students, just like you said.

Photo of Steve
Team

Well thought out. Well articulated. Well executed. WELL DONE!
This is the kind of change America desperately needs. Onward and upward.

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

We really appreciate your input. Thanks for supporting Branch Out!

Photo of Laura
Team

This is brilliant. If you've done this by 16, imagine what you'll be doing in 10 years.

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thanks for the feedback! Anything to support more changemakers :)

Photo of Shikhar
Team

Great to see you growing the original program and expanding it into new areas and subjects.. continue building partnerships with organizations like tmobile and ashoka for program participants

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thanks for the suggestion, one of our main goals is to develop a mentorship network that is locally sourced for students to draw upon great ideas in their communities and use them to inspire their own

Photo of Praneeti
Team

Wonderful idea! So excited to see what's in store for you both :)

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thank you so much for your support!

Photo of Long Dang
Team

This is great! I believe that creating more education equality, especially pre-K, could have an immense impact on the future success of the children in such programs. Good luck!

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thank you so much! It's interesting that you mention pre-K programming as well, definitely something we'll look at expanding into.

Photo of Anthony Montano
Team

I think this is great. I like that not only do you recognize that each community has its own individual needs rather than trying to force a blanket solution, but you also have a call to action for the young changemakers that become a part of your program. This is awesome because not only does it help people, but it gets them to be more involved and to spread the love.

I think you could make this even stronger by giving some examples or stories of how other changemakers have already been impacted and begun to make moves to bring change in their own community. Showcasing that ripple effect will take this even further to the next level, and could even inspire more changemakers to act. Regardless, I think that this is an awesome concept and I can’t wait to see how it continues to grow and positively impact those involved!

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

I really appreciate your feedback! It's wonderful to hear how our model is successful along with how we can strengthen it and engage more changemakers. Thank you so much.

Photo of Denilson Pierre Louis
Team

This is wonderful. What a great way to provide c.h.a.n.g.e. CHILDREN HAVE A NEED TO GROW EVERYDAY. I changed life can create millions of lives to be changed. Keep empowering

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Thanks for your support! We completely agree, inspiring the next generation of changemakers is what we're all about.

Photo of Leilani Serbousek
Team

I'm interested in spreading this to my school and local schools! i love this! Could you email me and perhaps give me some more information on things I could do to help?

Photo of Shreya Parjan
Team

Hi Leilani! Thanks for your message, it's wonderful to hear from another young entrepreneur and I think you would make a great addition to our network. I'll be sure to email you more information and resources for starting a chapter in your community. I'm really looking forward to branching out together!