spent far more time this year oscillating between “THIS IS TERRIBLE” and “I AM TERRIBLE” than I will ever admit.  However, when we started helping the students pull together their final presentations and began reading their reflections – it was clear that more had sunk-in than imagined.  As they shared their projects with their parents, visitors and classmates, I could finally take a deep breath and say THIS IS AWESOME!

“Their knowledge and enthusiastic descriptions of the projects presented was contagious.” – Carlos Peralta, Project Manager,  Cambridge Redevelopment Authority

The New Question
In my opinion, it’s time to retire the age old question of what do you want to be when you grow up? We should be asking, How to do want to make a difference? How will you make the world a better place? This gets beyond engineer, doctor, lawyer to the purpose that fuels the career aspiration. It will be the purpose that drives them when the going gets tough.

Since the beginning of the school year we have been asking our students, “How Will You Make Your Mark on the World?” We asked it in several different ways until we finally started getting to some real answers. Then over 12 weeks they were tasked with taking one step towards making their mark.

Projects included:

  • Household products for people with arthritis and different disabilities
  • Toys to support infant toddler learning and development
  • Affordable sneakers that encourages an active lifestyle
  • YouTube campaign that stirs-up kids to take school seriously
  • Methods to educate kids in everyday places
  • Law Enforcement robots that treat everyone fairly
  • Online Math games for kids
  • Soft flexible pencil case for organizing school supplies
  • Robotic exoskeleton especially for soldiers

IMG_2747I couldn’t stop smiling as I read their reflections.  However, one floored me.  When answering the question, How will I make my mark on the world? one said,

“Before I make my mark on the world, I’m going to make learning more effective for myself. This way, I can have good grades to get into MIT.  Once I graduate from MIT I can become an industrial designer. I love to invent and makes things to simplify other people’s lives.”

That’s amazing introspection from a 5th grader.  No one will be cheering louder when she walks the stage at MIT in 11 years.

We are attempting to bring a transformative learning experience to high potential youth living in under-served communities – a group that needs this now. The need for our services was made perfectly clear when the article “Area 4 Residents of Cambridge Live in the Shadows of the Future” was written. For those paying attention, it was well known before then. That said, funding for our initiative remains allusive.

We need your help connecting with visionaries – individuals, corporations, foundations who share our desire to close the success divide.  Plans to extend our learning experience to a larger number of students this Summer fizzled, but we are still holding out hope for a scaled back program.  Additionally, we are formulating a Saturday program, starting in the Fall, that will expose our demographic to the many youth-centered innovation related activities occurring each weekend in Boston and Cambridge.

Boston / Cambridge is listed as the first or second most innovative city in the US on every list that you read.  Trends in demographics are signaling that it will be the youth that we are working with and others like them that will keep us on the list.

Enjoy the photos of our “innovators in the making.”


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Michael K. Dawson

Co-Founder, Chief Doer, Innovators For Purpose, Inc. Creative Doing - the act of changing or influencing with the intent of leaving a mark on the world...

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