Microschools, Apprenticeships And Edtech Companies Vie For $1 Million Yass Prize

The Yass Prize and STOP Awards Initiative recently announced 32 semifinalists for the second annual $1 million Yass Prize for Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding and Permissionless Education. Among them are a construction apprenticeship program, a sailing-focused private school for high-risk teens, and a financial literacy company. The annual award was established in 2021 to reward educators who delivered exceptional experiences for students during the Covid-19 pandemic. Forbes is a media partner for the Yass Prize, and has agreed to amplify their work on our platforms and provide event space in New York.

The semifinalists are spread across 23 different states and a variety of learning models, including public schools, microschools, hybrid learning programs, internship programs and charter schools. Nearly half of the semifinalists are in the public sector and nearly half are private. Each semifinalist will receive a $200,000 grant, and the 64 quarter finalists, unveiled last month, received $100,000 grants. Semifinalists will participate in an accelerator program and pitch competition in December before the six finalists and grand prize winner are announced on Dec. 14. Each of the six finalists will receive a $250,000 prize.

“There are literally thousands of education leaders who are quietly transforming a previously stagnant education landscape,” Jeanne Allen, Yass Foundation director and founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, said in a statement. “Our goal is to find and fund the best and influence others to follow their examples, so that no child has to wait for the education that best meets their needs.”

A handful of microschools, which typically serve about a dozen students each, made it to the semifinals. One of them, called Black Mothers Forum in Phoenix, Ariz., was founded by mother Janelle Wood in 2016 and has since been asked to expand their small group learning centers throughout the state. Another, KaiPod Learning based in Boston, Mass., has now opened 12 in-person learning centers across four states for homeschooled and online students. Semifinalist Kind Academy, a microschool network based in Coral Springs, Fla., uses a hands-on, Montessori-style model and emphasizes self-paced learning in math and language arts. The school offers three types of hybrid learning models that allow parents to choose to send their child to in-person classes for two, three or five days a week.

Several apprenticeship and internship programs are in the running for the Yass Prize, including unCommon Construction, an apprenticeship program for high schoolers in New Orleans, La. The program is working to increase representation of women and minorities in the construction industry by matching students with paid construction internships, for which they can also earn school credit. Coded By Kids, an edtech company based in Philadelphia, offers web development courses for 13 to 18-year-olds, as well as mentorship and internships for students interested in technology careers.

Charter schools including Jumoke Academy Charter School, Arkansas Lighthouse Charter Schools, Arizona Autism Charter Schools, and Brilla Public Charter Schools in Paterson, N.J. are some of the more traditional education institutions in the running for the Yass Prize, but each offers its own unique twist. Arizona Autism Charter Schools focuses on career readiness for its students, to help reverse the trend that a majority of young adults with autism are neither employed nor engaged in higher education. Soar Academy School and Tutoring Center in Evans, Georgia offers its 200 students a customized curriculum, transportation to and from school, and tutoring.

Another semifinalist, St. Petersburg-based SailFuture, doesn’t fit into any one program category. The tuition-free foster care program and career prep private school is aimed at high-risk teens and offers a semester at sea, as well as an emphasis on entrepreneurship, maritime education, culinary arts and construction. Founder Michael Long says he would use the prize money to open another brick and mortar school in Hillsborough County and expand access to the sailing trips to students who don’t attend SailFuture.

Other Yass Prize semifinalists aren’t schools or programs at all. The financial literacy…

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