A Shining Mobile Opportunity for Students
By Justine Sheu, CEO and Co-founder, Pro:Up
Mobile is so ubiquitous, it drives everything we do. From the moment we wake up, we use mobile to track our steps, lock our doors, navigate to work, and keep connected; but, mobile can also be a change agent. With such an expansive medium, innovators are discovering new ways to address the challenges our society faces, both locally and nationally. That is exactly what we aimed to do with Pro:Up, a mobile app that matches high school students to educational and career development opportunities like classes, summer programs, internships and jobs. With the new school year approaching, providing students with proper resources to succeed is top of mind, particularly for high school counselors.
My fellow partners and I are high school counselors in Detroit. Each of us has worked with students who grow up fighting the harsh realities of multigenerational poverty, but aspire to be different from what they see around them. A challenge we often battle is students simply not knowing the path they need to take, lacking role models to guide them or resources to help identify their passions and develop their skills. One thing almost all of our students do have access to, however, is a smartphone. Our team saw an incredible opportunity to connect students with critical resources by reaching them in a medium that is an essential part of their everyday life — a mobile app. Both high school students and organizations need a means to efficiently and effectively connect, and we set out to devise a mobile solution that would help us reach even the most disadvantaged youth.
In the United States, high school counselors must manage staggering caseloads, which limits the amount of time available to personally help each and every student. Counselors simply do not have enough hours in the day to connect every student to critical learning experiences outside the classroom that will help them uncover their passions, develop their skills, and help determine their career paths. Yet, there are a wealth of organizations that provide meaningful enrichment opportunities for youth, whether pre-college programs, summer camps, or internships. Despite spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on their recruitment budgets, many program directors still struggle to find enough qualified students for their programs because the current mode of outreach is inefficient and antiquated.
Driven by our own experiences as counselors, we spent months speaking with students, educators, and program directors to better understand their needs. We then employed an agile development process to obtain input from potential users on the functionality and feel of our new product. All of this hard work and research culminated in Pro:Up, a mobile app that offers a one-stop platform to help high school students discover and receive personalized updates on the opportunities that will help them develop their talents based on their interests and qualifications. Students receive a custom feed of matching opportunities, which they can like, save, review, and pursue.
Mobile has enabled us to come as close as we can to our vision of a universally accessible information platform. Since individuals everywhere are using mobile phones at the same rates no matter how they are socially situated, devising a mobile solution enables us to reach even the most disadvantaged youth, which is critical to our social mission. As winners of the Mobileys, a national mobile innovation competition, it was incredibly exciting to see how mobile technology is empowering people to make a positive social difference in their community. From fighting hunger to reducing recidivism, our fellow Mobileys winners made it clear that mobile has the potential to serve as a great equalizer. Our recent participation in one episode of a series of webinars hosted by Mobile Future allowed us to offer advice to entrepreneurs looking to get their own app out there and make a difference. Check out the upcoming webinars and learn more about the Mobileys, as Mobile Future is on the lookout again for the next great, game-changing app with a social good aspect.