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The Miracle Mile Fund - Go The Distance!

When you hear words like "innovator" and "world-changer," adolescents from impoverished communities don't really come to mind. I believe, however, that the brightest minds are often found in the darkest places and the time has come for these students to share their light with the world! That is why I am requesting your help to implement the Miracle Mile Fund. The primary goal of the fund will be to provide high-achieving students from low and struggling middle income families the opportunity to participate in a volunteer abroad program. My hope is that this experience will help these students realize their worth and know they have just as much to contribute to this world as someone from a more affluent background.

Photo of Ayanna Martin

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Having come from a lower income household, I personally know what it's like to want a better life, not only for yourself but your family as well. And while having an education is certainly a major part of achieving that, students today don't really see it that way. In a world where instant gratification and being known more for "celebrity status" has become the norm, the thought of sitting behind a desk all day listening to a teacher talk about a subject you have no interest in can be frustrating. Although volunteering abroad and other cross-cultural exchange programs have existed for quite some time, the level of involvement from disadvantaged students is markedly below that of their more privileged counterparts.

Despite there being other contributing factors, it is my belief that this disparity is further promulgated by the lack of financial resources available to these underprivileged youth. The purpose of the Miracle Mile Fund is to provide financial assistance to these students in an attempt to effectively diminish that gap. Giving these students the opportunity to participate in volunteer abroad programs targets the importance of receiving an education in a unique way and allows them to apply what they've learned to real life situations and not just theoretical examples. Furthermore, they get the chance to experience a whole new world outside of the one they had grown accustomed to, opening them up to various possibilities not thought of before.

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

This idea will benefit high-achieving students from underprivileged backgrounds ranging in age from 12 - 19. Too often, middle and high school students from lower income families are not able to participate in culturally enriching experiences like foreign exchange and study/volunteer abroad programs. These programs are known to provide numerous benefits, both personally and professionally, and not having the opportunity to access them puts these students at a greater disadvantage than that of their more well-off peers. I decided to start the Miracle Mile Fund because I want these students to understand that their socio-economic status should not and will not determine the level of greatest they can attain as long as they are willing to put in the work. Having the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves allows these students to gain a whole new perspective on life. They recognize strengths they never even knew they had. They develop friendships with individuals they never would have imagined meeting, let alone interacting with. By taking a chance and stepping out of their comfort zone, they are able to understand and appreciate just how much they have to offer the world.

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

As the college application process becomes more and more competitive, in addition to outstanding academic performance, students are also having to think of innovative and impactful activities that set them apart from other applicants. Volunteering abroad gives the students a chance to learn about world issues first hand and how these problems can be best addressed, providing them with the edge needed to impress college admission committees. Having had the opportunity to really engage in issues they are passionate about during their volunteer experience will also help the students be more focused in their academic pursuits, allowing them to perform better in their college courses overall. Moreover, with an increasing number of companies operating on a global scale, employers are more likely to hire individuals with the experience, skills and cultural understanding needed to work in an international environment, all of which the students would have already developed through their volunteer experience. This will give them a distinct advantage over their fellow graduates once they transition into the workforce. According to a survey conducted in 2009 across the UK, when it comes to the career benefits of volunteering, 80% of employers value volunteering on a resume and over 70% of employers believe individuals with volunteer experience have a better chance of earner a higher salary and gaining a promotion.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I am currently trying to raise funds to sponsor at least one high school student to be able to participate in a volunteer abroad program. My goal is to have the student(s) involved with a program by the summer of 2015.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

I am open to receiving input and guidance on the most effective way(s) to implement and sustain the fund on a larger scale. Additionally, I would need assistance with raising awareness about the fund on a local, national and international level.

The idea emerged from:

  • An individual

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • Keen to prototype it, find partners and pursue implementation

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Hi Ayanna, I highlighted your idea contribution in the latest blog that just went up. Check it out here!: https://openideo.com/blog/youth-employment-challenge-community-ambassador-update-4

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