With negative news headlines streaming through our devices every day, it’s easy to turn inward. We bury our heads in the sand as a means to cope with the discursive terrain of cynicism which is what characterizes the everyday.
Yet, we cannot undermine the scale of the challenges that face the future. There are future hurdles we must confront. There is an urgent need to address climate change, mass migration, growing economic inequity, the rise of fascism, xenophobia, gendered and sexual violence and much more.
While finding optimism in the context of these circumstances may seem like a difficult task, we must not see the future as fixed or inevitable. It can change. We can change it and change can be done more efficiently and effectively when the spirit of hope, innovation, and optimism are cultivated at an early age.
When young people operate in an environment that inspires, engages, and enhances their self-worth, it fundamentally changes how they position themselves in this world.
The Future Project is a national non-profit organization and its mission is fueled by the desire to inspire young people across the nation. It empowers them to build a life and world they imagine.
“TFP is driven by three core values: passion, which inspires us to live fully and do what lights us up most; belief, which inspires us to choose optimism and use our conviction to pursue audacious possibilities; and courage, which inspires us to do what’s right even when it is not easy.”
In 2011, a passionate group of people came together to launch, The Future Project. Since then, the non-profit organization operates in 19 cities across the U.S, including New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Newark, New Haven, Detroit, Atlanta, and more.
The TFP team is made up of 110 members who operate across the country. They work closely with co-founders and social entrepreneurs Andrew Mangino and Kanya Balakrishna – who currently serve as CEO and president, respectively.
Though based in New York, love from TFP is rapidly spreading across the nation. Institutions and corps alike have been open to partnerships, such as Google, McCourt Global, and Yale University.
Luxury fashion label Coach recently donated $1.4 million to the non-profit and sent Michael B. Jordan and Selena Gomez to schools partnering with TFP in order to help mentor and inspire students.
After consulting with schools across the nation, TFP has identified that the core problem schools and educators encounter is the vast disengagement among young people in the classroom.
TFP broke down the numbers:
– 7 in 10 students report they are unmotivated
– 50% of young people are not hopeful about the future,
– 2 out of 3 Americans grow up to be unhappy about their life,
– 1.2 million students drop out annually (nearly 10% of all 15-18-year-olds)
– 50% students report being disengaged in their learning at school
89% of students leave school unprepared for work.
Tackling these issues, TFP works directly with young people and educators across the country. The mission is to turn schools into vibrant, engaging places where every student can develop the mindset and skills to bring their dreams to life, be hopeful about the future, and recognize their role in shaping society.
Through one-on-one coaching and dynamic workshops, Dream Directors — highly trained, world-class leaders and entrepreneurs — are dispatched into high schools to train hundreds of students to develop a sense of belonging and to help them discover their purpose.
Dream Directors are tasked with mobilizing students to channel their passions to build and design student-led Future Projects (campaigns, organizations, products) that impact their schools and communities.
TFP is bifurcated into high school programs as well as Future Camps. The Future Camps run for three days and currently operate in the cities of Los Angeles, Omaha, Atlanta, Dallas, Albuquerque and Emmetsburg.
Through both programs, TFP equips young people with the tools and mindset to see themselves as citizens in their own communities — a project that seeks to put into practice the phrase, “think globally, act locally.”
For TFP, no dream is too big or out of reach. TFP encourages students to believe that every person is unique and has something important to contribute to society – in both a local and global framework.
Through helping students understand and set their own goals, by raising their expectations and enhancing their self-worth, TFP teaches students that every single person deserves the chance to shape their own destiny and recognizes that their discoveries can shape the future for the better.
Undoubtedly, TFP knows that there are already educators who inspire young people every single day. At the same time, there are also many fault lines to the US school system, in which the standardized metrics that are used to measure a student’s worth, aren’t helpful in enhancing a student’s belief in their own future.
Put simply, TFP wants students to pursue their dreams, whether big or small. The goal is to inspire a generation that can lead us into a more hopeful future.