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Scholarships for Real Life: Electric Vehicles & Cross-Country Road Trips

2014 trip

Last year we started a foundation, making an initial investment of $100,000 and pledging to support “Scholarships for Real Life,” a program to enable people to pursue a dream of their own while also addressing a problem that affects others.

In this short series, we’ll highlight our initial grantees.

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Working with at-risk youth is never easy, and finding ways to engage teenagers while trying to help them grow is even harder. For the past four years, Voyager Linda Bucner and MINDDRIVE have sought to inspire students to learn, expand their vision of the future and to have a positive influence on urban workforce development in the Kansas City area.

The program achieves these ends by having students convert gas powered cars into electric vehicles. At the end of the program, students go on a road trip to highlight and celebrate their success of restoring and converting a car that you can actually drive on the road, on the highway and in the city. In 2013, MINDDRIVE students took a fully-restored Karmann Ghia, converted it to an electric vehicle and went on the road with the car from Akron, Ohio to Washington, D.C.

One of the byproducts of the program is that students see the practical application of the seemingly endless hours learning algebra into a task they can touch, see and build—such as calculating the amp hours on a battery that will power a car, and how a bunch of batteries connected together can increase those hours. Last year’s program provided students with the opportunity to host a Congressional Briefing about how hands‐on learning leads to jobs. It was received with a standing‐room only crowd, including various politicians.

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Additionally, the program has a lasting impact on youth by expanding their world view. Take David, for example. Last year, David did not want to go on the trip to Washington D.C. Was he afraid to fly, perhaps? No, he said. Do you need to get a job for the summer? No, he said. Are you worried about being away from your family for a whole week, David? No, again.

After some convincing, David finally went on the trip. When asked last why he was reluctant to commit to the trip in the first place, his response was this:

“Miss Linda, my family has moved around a lot. We have moved from this trailer park to another trailer park, from ghetto to ghetto and I just figured that the whole country looked the same as all of these places I’ve been.”

Before the program, David’s view of the world had been quite small and limiting. He probably felt the same way about opportunities available to him. Through MINDDRIVE, David now sees that the world holds lots of possibilities that now feel more within his reach.

Where the Money Goes

Linda and the MINDDRIVE program will be using their Scholarship for Real Life grant to partially fund this year’s trip for 50 students and their mentors at the culmination of the 2014/15 program. While the trip destination has yet to be determined, there is a great deal of work that will take need to take place.

Right now, Linda and her team are currently updating the student application and onboarding process to include a “pre-interview” video discussing the student’s expectations. These videos will be part of Linda’s second WDS Foundation milestone—the Field Report. Additionally, MINDDRIVE will begin recruiting mentors and sponsors to provide additional support for this year’s program.

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Follow Along or Get Involved!

Linda is looking for outside assistance in the areas of strategic messaging and design. The organization’s continued success depends on clearly communicating the value of the MINDDRIVE program to potential funders and current stakeholders, and having a messaging strategy is essential.

Additionally, the program is looking for ways to recognize student achievement, including a badge concept similar to Boy or Girl Scouts. If you are interested in assisting Linda and the MINDDRIVE program with messaging or badge design, you can contact her from their website.

You can also follow along with MINDDRIVE’s work on Twitter @MINDDRIVEorg.

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