Wishbone Lets Kids Apply To Have Their Educations Crowdfunded

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Eighty kids got to attend academic summer camps and after-school programs this year thanks to Wishbone, and today its education crowdfunding platform starts allowing needy children in the Bay Area or NYC to apply for assistance. The non-profit startup has spent the last year building out its fundraising and impact fulfillment components. Now Wishbone is ready to scale and redefine the scholarship space.

Unlocking Students’ Potential

Wishbone lets donors browse profiles of kids and the programs they want to attend. People can choose to fund a specific child, or let Wishbone allocate the funds. Later, donors receive information about the progress of the kids they sponsor.

Its goal is to narrow the opportunity gap between low- and high-income kids. Richer families spend 10x as much on out-of-school programs as less fortunate families. Wishbone harnesses the crowd to even the playing field.

Wishbone Profiles

But at its heart, Wishbone is about the stories of disadvantaged kids who receive funding for an academic program, realize their passion, and stay engaged with education. This is foundation of long-term success. And all 80 kids it put up for funding this year got the money they needed.

Take Gabriella, a high-performing, low-income high school student from Astoria, New York. She volunteered at a local hospital and discovered she wanted to be a doctor. Wishbone set up a profile for her, and 13 donors paid to send her to Georgetown’s Summer Medical Institute program. She excelled, found a professor to mentor her who then recommended her to the admissions office, and she got a scholarship. Now she’s attending Georgetown University for college as a pre-med and is excelling.

Here’s the update she sent to her donors:

Gabriella Update To Donors

Education beyond the standard classroom is crucial to helping kids discover their calling and fight academic fatigue. Engaged students turn into productive members of society that are happier and healthier, spur innovation, or at least get high-paying jobs that contribute taxes and buying power to the economy. If we want to fix America, it starts with showing kids that education is the road to fulfillment.

Wishbone does that. Founder and only full-time employee Beth Schmidt tells me “We’ve found that Wishbone students are understanding and pursuing their passions. Interest in school and extracurriculars is going way up.”

The kids love it too. A study shows their GPA goes up, and they say they’re better able to express themselves, manage time, and are more interested in school. One said:

“The support from the Wishbone community has shown me that there are other people that believe in me and my interests…This program has showed me who I can become and offered me useful resources. I am so grateful and thankful for the Wishbone community.”

Scaling Scholarships

Now that Wishbone has shown it can make a difference with the , it’s time to maximize that impact. First up, high school students from low-income schools (where more than 70% of students are on free or reduced price lunch) can apply to be funded.

Teachers can help kids with their applications, nominate them directly, and help them promote their campaign to find donors. This is crucial to getting the best possible applicants — students who work hard and have big dreams, but lack the money to get the training they need.

beth-schmidtThe startup is now working on business development, seeking discounted tuitions and free spots from program providers and corporations in exchange for spreading awareness. Wishbone will also provide new tools to help kids and their teachers discover local programs that fit their interests.

People looking to give money can also now buy gift cards for friends that let them pick a kid to support. This is important as Wishbone competes with other non-profits like health crowdfunding site Watsi for donors.

What’s next will be the real test for Wishbone: going nationwide. Wishbone plans to expand city-by-city across the country. Schmidt (right) believes every low-income kid deserves a chance to turn what they love into a profession. She explains that the ripple that starts when a student gets a Wishbone scholarship can grow into waves of improvement for their whole life. “There’s a dramatic shift in the way they think about what’s possible for themselves.”