New type of talent contest, part of former Google CEO’s $ 1 billion effort, names top winners


Let the tech billionaires try to reinvent college scholarships.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife Wendy, who is president of the family foundation, last week announced the 100 winners of their Rise Talent Competition, a new type of competition for young talent that promises to provide a life of financial support to the winners. education and business activities.

The premise of the effort is that traditional scholarships are too focused on academic metrics and don’t do enough to give long-term winners broad scaffolding to ensure success. Hence the contest Rise helped create an app for applicants and invited attendees to share video essays and participate in online mixers and video lessons while presenting their proposals. About 50,000 people aged 15-17 have applied, representing 170 countries.

“Many systems favor science and math fanatics and only see it as brilliant,” Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, executive director of Rise, told EdSurge last week. “We are unpacking the notion of brilliance and finding a brilliance that others may not see.”

Last year, in an interview with BBC World News, Wendy Schdmit said it also in strong terms: “If we end up with a room full of math geniuses, we won’t be able to.”

So who won the first series of lifetime awards?

Well, some of them seem really good at math and science. Adam Dhalla from Canada built an algorithm to help classify proteins within cells; Aryan Sharma from India has devised an AI-based diagnostic app to scan X-rays for anomalies; and Valentina Barrón Garcia from Mexico invented a hydroponic system for growing fruit and vegetables to tackle food insecurity.

The winners also include many young people who are also focused on the humanities. Among these are Lydia Ruth Nottingham from the UK, who used poetry to persuade her school to switch to reusable masks to prevent COVID-19 instead of disposable ones; Irfan Ayub from Afghanistan, who has developed a mentoring program in his rural community; and Jennifer Uche from the United States, who produces a fiction podcast to promote social justice and anti-racism.

The Rise project has also worked with smaller nonprofits around the world to identify teens who otherwise wouldn’t have heard of scholarship opportunities. This led to a winner living in a refugee camp in Kenya, Christian Maboko from Burundi, who conducted seminars to educate fellow refugees on sexual and reproductive health.

Jennifer Uche, an American winner who runs a podcast, found that she won in a very public way: despite being interviewed on Good Morning America.

“I just thought I was there to promote Rise,” Uche said, in an interview with EdSurge. Sitting there during the interview, Uche confesses that she was thinking about a test she would have to take at school when suddenly she was told she had won.

Uche said the interview process was “fun” and involved a mix of individual interviews and group interviews in which he discussed with other finalists.

“They asked us questions about philosophical scenarios, like I had 100 coins [to give away,] Other [a person named] Red is sick and Green is healthy, how many would you give to Red and how many would you give to Green? “

Uche says he is thrilled with the large amount of financial support the award will bring, up to $ 500,000 over the course of its lifetime. (She says she thought there was a typo when she first read about the scholarship and saw how many zeros there were in the number.) But she can’t wait to take advantage of Rise’s mentorship, she realized introductions from famous creators who can help her perfect her fiction and podcasting.

His podcast, just launched on Halloween, is called EC: Monster Training, which she says regards young people as heroes. It is part of his larger effort called Project Lux which aims to combine art and advocacy to promote social justice.

“If someone listens to my fictional story and if a young man is inspired enough to act, it means I’m doing my job as a writer,” she said.

The project is led by Schmidt Futures, a philanthropy founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt who have committed more than $ 1 billion to find talented young people. (Disclosure: Schmidt Futures provided project support at EdSurge.)

Although the Rise effort promotes his brand new approach, he has teamed up with some of the biggest names in student success. He partnered with Sal Khan’s non-profit organization Hello World to create the app and with the Rhodes Trust, the group behind the Rhodes Scholarship, to administer the award.

Rise leaders say they will now adapt aspects of the program for the 100 winners of the first round. “We are designing and iterating a customized program just for them, to meet them where they need it,” said Kamau-Rutenberg. “We promise to walk with them.”

The contest is already accepting candidates for his second shift.


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