Ally Katzz Blog: What Is The Future Project?
The Future Project is a national initiative to mobilize millions of young people to put their dreams into action by transforming schools into places where students' passions are valued and their possibilities as leaders are nurtured.
I interviewed The Future Project's Chief Storyteller, Dan McIntosh.
What is The Future Project?
The Future Project launched in October 2011 with hundreds of Future Corps members in and around public high schools across New York, Washington, DC, and New Haven. It was the largest education-initiative launch since Teach for America, and it marked for our partner schools a new era of possibility for students. They became Future Fellows and they were paired with Future Coaches-local college students, graduate students, or young professionals-and placed on a Dream Team.
Since then, Fellows have started something-a Future Project-by putting big dreams into odd-defying action. They have begun to launch non-profits, file patents, lead teams and events, and initiate campaigns that channel their passions to transform their neighborhoods.
Here's a video about The Future Project in New Haven that shows some of these projects:
Schools are spaces of tremendous opportunity. And high school students are at such a critical age, because that's when we solidify, often for a long time, how we define and see ourselves. Do we see ourselves as passive receptacles of information? Do we put our dreams on hold because they're outlandish? Or do we decide that no one is going to dream for us, that it's our own responsibility to put them into action and reinvigorate our own lives, and the lives of our peers, schools and communities? Our ultimate goal is to make school an inspired and inspiring place, where young people feel safe pursuing passions that at first seem crazy. We want to make everyone a dreamer.
What lessons have you learned from working with teens at The Future Project that you can pass on to other young people that are eager to make a difference?
I think, as Chief Storyteller at The Future Project, the most valuable thing I've learned is that everyone has a story, and they want to tell it. And they just need someone who is curious and caring to listen. That's one of the things, as a Coach myself, that I've seen transform the way our Fellows think about themselves. When we ask them questions about themselves, about why they care about certain things, why they made certain decisions in their projects, they open up.
A lot of our Fellows have told us that they never thought it was important that they cared about, say, skateboarding or dance or drumming. And so when their Coaches came along and were actually curious to learn more, and wanted to listen to the Fellows' stories about what they love, it made them see their interests in new ways.
I've interviewed lots of Fellows for The Future Project. And a lot of them were shy beyond belief when I first met them. And when I see them now, months later, they're beaming and excited to share the latest news about their projects. And for the Fellows who have completed projects, the feeling of accomplishment and joy is just infectious.
One last thing. Just on Saturday, we had a huge event, Revolution : New Haven, where the Fellows in New Haven presented their projects, talked to members of the community including the mayor and school superintendent. To see them speak so eloquently and passionately about their projects was so moving. And then we had a big show in a theatre, where Fellows performed and gave speeches. We showed a video, and when the shot of New Haven Academy, their school, came up, they erupted in cheers. For their school. That was exciting. And I never cry, but I definitely think the room got a little dusty at that moment.
So I guess that was a long, roundabout way of saying that I've learned that students are amazing, have so much brilliance and creativity inside of them waiting to be ignited, and just need a tiny spark.
How can we stay connected with you and The Future Project online?
Well, online, you can check out project and Fellow profiles on our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter @myfutureproject (character limits!), and check out our website, thefutureproject.org.
Offline, in the real world, you can become a Coach, or a Partner, or come to one of our other Revolution Days...this Saturday, May 5 in DC, and May 12 in New York! You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most important thing you can do, though, is DREAM. Then put it into action and help your friends do the same.