Using Photography to Spread Stories of Beauty and Hope

Pharoah is a 9th grader from Oakland. Thanks to the generosity of the many donors to his Wishbone campaign, Pharoah will attend Academy of Art University’s Summer Program to pursue his passion for photography.

We were struck by the way he described his passion:

“My first camera was inexpensive and disposable. I carried it around for a month and captured various people in my community… Photography has served as a wonderful tool, assisting me in capturing untold stories and neglected beauty. Capturing life in pictures has changed the way I see the world. It’s actually quite an incredible transformation to experience. Suddenly you notice light, shapes, colors, people, and nature even in urban settings.”

Pharoah is interested in using his skill as a photographer to advocate for the arts and youth leadership. He plans to, through the power of photographs, highlight how art helps empower youth and the community, just like it has for him. In his words, “I hope to use photography to spread stories of beauty and hope.”

By attending Academy of Art, Pharoah will have a unique opportunity to attend an arts-focused university, to dive deep into his technique and interact with like-minded artists.

Thank you to all the donors who contributed towards his campaign. We’re excited to follow him on his journey with you!

Click HERE to view the campaigns of other amazing students like Pharoah.

The Difference a Summer Can Make

As we prepare for another summer of sending motivated students to exceptional summer programs, we like to look back and assess the impact that attending these programs have on students’ success. After students returned from their adventures last summer, we asked them to tell us about their experience in our post-program survey. Here are some highlights:

100% of students are on track to graduate high school.

100% of students plan to attend college.

When asked how their Wishbone experience impacted their plans for the future, students wrote:

“After going to my summer program [in engineering], I am 100% sure that I want to pursue engineering.”

“My time spent on Skidmore’s campus allowed me to get a better understanding of the different college settings…Also, through this experience I now know that a small college is the best option for me.”

100% of students rated their overall program experience via Wishbone as “good” or “excellent.”

“I enjoyed the lectures and small group discussions. I learned a lot about the basics of medicine and learned what I need to be prepared for medical school…I also enjoyed the hands-on activities that we took part in to help us get a feel for what doctors do in their fields. It was an amazing experience!”

“I loved how the staff really treated us like college students…it gave us a lot of independence.”

71% of students reported that their ability to express themselves through writing has improved as a result of their participation in Wishbone.

74% of students said their ability to manage time effectively and complete tasks on time has improved. 

77% of students reported a more positive attitude toward school as a result of their Wishbone experience.

“This definitely makes me more excited for the college process. I will have to go through similar steps, such as the application and interview, and it now seems less scary.”

84% of students said that they have used the skills they have developed through Wishbone to inspire and help other students apply to out-of-school programs. 

94% of students reported that their ability to adapt to new and different environments has improved.

“This program experience gave me a glimpse of what college would be like. It is a lot of independence and it will be a little hard at first to meet new people but it’ll also be fun.”

100% of students said that the compassion and support from the Wishbone community and the belief in them by others had a positive influence.

“I am grateful that Wishbone believed in me and that I was able to participate in such a great opportunity.”

“With the support of the Wishbone community I pushed myself more because I knew that I was not in the process alone, and that there were individuals who thought I had potential.”

What Did Their Teachers Say?

We asked teachers to comment on changes and growth they noticed in their students:

100% of teachers reported increased levels of confidence in students who participated in Wishbone.

83% of teachers reported increased curiosity and eagerness to learn.

92% of teachers said that students who participated in Wishbone were better prepared to apply to college.

“[Wishbone] gave my students a chance to participate in programs that were previously out of their families’ reach financially. This means exposure to new ideas, cultures, peoples, and tons of preparation for their transition into college.”

“[The student] seems even more interested in Engineering than ever and hopes to continue to design and tinker.”

“[The student] learned to face a new challenge head-on, and she overcame her meekness. She’s a better communicator and seems more confident and vocal, plus she’s more familiar with technology and computers.”

“It was a big deal for [the student] to overcome her shyness and travel to San Francisco, take college art classes and challenge herself to learn new material. She feels more well-rounded in her art skills, more creative, and more independent and responsible – which is great for her preparation to go to college next year!”

“The program helped [the student] build independence and see the possibility of going to college. In the past, he’s seen it as a distant future option, but now he’s starting to grasp college as his reality.”

“The students have re-entered high school with increased confidence and momentum towards college. They were deeply inspired by the friends they made and the faculty they met, and are working hard to make sure they will be eligible to attend these institutions in just a few short years.”

 “We as a school, and the students individually, are so thankful for Wishbone’s help in finding and attending these programs. You are truly helping make a difference for them!”



Meet Erika, and help her achieve her goals!

Erika is an 11th grader from the South Bronx. She is a star student, taking 3 AP classes in one semester, and is a strong advocate for social justice issues in her school and community. She is raising funds on Wishbone so that she can attend the prestigious Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL) in Hawai’i this spring.

Erika applied to this program last year and was accepted, but wasn’t able to afford the program cost. This year, she’s participating in Wishbone to raise the funds to participate. 

Click HERE to view her campaign and donate!

The Program: BELL Hawai’i is a unique program offered by Brown University focused on giving students a strong awareness and understanding of environmental issues.  The program is set up as a “24-hour learning laboratory” where students incorporate sustainable living practices and apply their learnings in the field to the way they live, giving them a deeply personal connection to the material they are learning. Students leave this program inspired and empowered to become catalysts for change in their own communities. 

When Erika applied to Wishbone, we couldn’t imagine a more perfect fit for the program. She wrote to us, saying:

“The thing that makes me want to succeed more than anything else is the idea that I can be whoever I want to be, that I can make out of myself whatever I please. Knowing that my parents faced challenges when they had to make the decision to come to America, and to sacrifice their own lives for the good of their children makes me want to succeed. I cannot take my opportunities for granted because of all that people have done to help me have the best opportunities. This program would allow me to study the land and features of an environment I might not otherwise be introduced to…I will be pushed beyond my boundaries and will learn how to defend myself while exploring and learning about a diverse environment and culture.”

We were also blown away by the comments of her teacher, Ms. MacNeil, who has been a constant source of support and encouragement for Erika:

“Erika is selfless, thoughtful and generous. I have been moved to help her seek funding for the BELL program because Erika, a constant giver, deserves to have a chance to sustain herself and her passions.”

Erika is currently raising funds to attend this program. We hope you’ll be as inspired as we are by her story, and play a part in enabling her to attend this program.

Click HERE to donate towards Erika’s campaign!


Q&A with Wishbone student, Kaylla

Wishbone student, Kaylla, attended Parsons Pre-College Summer Academy through Wishbone. She also participated in our SPARK event in New York City in November, where she was one of the student models during their fashion show. Kaylla is now completing her senior year and making plans for college. 

Q&A with Wishbone student, Kaylla

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about business. The subject has captivated me for some time now. However, I am also very interested in fashion. I love the idea of all the possibilities that are associated with fashion. I try to find ways to combine fashion and business, because they are both subjects that I enjoy.

What made you decide to apply to Wishbone?

I decided to apply to Wishbone because I knew that I wanted to do something productive and college-related during the summer of my 11th grade year. I didn’t have the funds to pay for the programs that I was interested in. My career counselor suggested that I apply to Wishbone because it is a great opportunity.

What was your favorite part about the Parsons program?

My favorite part of the program was constructing three dresses all on my own. I learned many new things about sewing, sketching and fashion in general. I did get help from the instructor, but the designs were my own and they were based off of what I liked. It was unlike any fashion class that I took before.

How did attending this program affect your plans for the future?

Attending this program made me re-evaluate my plans for college. Before this program, I wanted to just study business and maybe pursue fashion on the side. Now as I am applying to college, I am finding new ways to incorporate fashion into a major. I am interested in majors such as fashion marketing, fashion merchandising and product development.

Tell us about your experience participating in the SPARK Youth Empowerment fashion show:

Backstage was very exciting! I didn’t know anyone there, but I made many new friends backstage with the other student models. The process reminded me of watching Project Runway because the models of that show go through a similar process, just on a larger scale. I was very nervous just before the show but it was a lot of fun. If I had the chance to be part of another show I would definitely participate. 

Did you meet any inspiring people at the event? Who, and why did they inspire you?

I met Chris H, a model from America’s Next Top Model, at the event. His advice inspired me because he said that whenever you are modeling or just presenting yourself in general, you should forget about all outside influences. Make sure you never enter a situation with an attitude. Forgetting about everything that is stressing you out allows you to focus more on the task at hand.

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan to study business and fashion in college, and the majors I choose would depend on the college. The top four schools that I want to attend are SUNY Oneonta, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Stony Brook and FIT. I am not sure what career I want to pursue yet, but fashion will be involved in whatever I decide to do.

Guest Blog: Gabriella

Wishbone Students: Where Are They Now?

Here at Wishbone, we like to stay in touch with Wishbone alumni to see how they’ve leveraged their Wishbone experiences throughout the school year and into college. Today, Wishbone student Gabriella writes about her freshman year at Georgetown. After participating in the Georgetown Summer Medical Institute through Wishbone, Gabriella was accepted to attend Georgetown University for college:

"After hearing about Wishbone from my college counselor during my junior year of high school, I was really excited to participate in something that could change my life. I chose to do the Summer Medical Institute program at Georgetown University in Washington, DC for a few reasons. At the time, I knew I was interested in pursuing an education in the medical field, but I wasn’t sure what, exactly.  I knew that Georgetown’s program was one of the best, allowing hands on work in the labs and many different talks with highly intelligent figures in the world of medicine. I decided that a program with opportunities like that and in a location as wonderful as D.C. would be a fantastic experience.

This summer program changed all of my future plans. After the intensive study, I narrowed down my general likings and figured out what truly interested me and what I would like to pursue. Georgetown University became a top priority school for me to apply to and I was well aware that the application process would be very challenging, but I was ready to put my all into it. I was very interested in their NHS school, the School of Nursing and Health Studies, and its Human Science Major. The school itself is very difficult to get into, with only 150 freshmen accepted every year, so I knew I was up for hard work.

When the beginning of senior year came around, my college counselor, Lawrence Alexander, became a huge support figure alongside my parents. He was behind me every step of the way, helping me with the application process, the financial forms, the phone calls, and every other challenge that came up. He went through all my essays, more than just a few times. I did a lot of researching about the application process on my own, determined to get it down to the point where it was close to perfect. This was a goal I did not want to fall through on. On March 29th, I received a confirmation phone call that I had gotten in. It was one of the most prideful moments in my life. My parents wouldn’t believe it until the acceptance letter came in, and when it finally did I could see how proud they were, and that was the best feeling.

I entered Georgetown University as a freshman in the fall of 2013, and I have just finished my first semester. It is an experience that is unforgettable and so fulfilling. Everything is different from what I am used to, but it is such a great learning experience. I have decided to be a Human Science major, focusing on all aspects of science, and I will be starting a double minor of Cognitive Science and Psychology or Linguistics. Georgetown, academically, is a huge challenge, but first semester has taught me that everything is possible with proper time management and dedication to work. Hard work pays off! The professors are always there to help and I have already been given the opportunity to find wonderful mentors for many years ahead. Socially, it is a completely new experience. I have met wonderful people from all over the world and I have realized that it is truly a gift to have this opportunity.

The upcoming spring semester is going to be challenging because on top of my science classes of intense biology lecture and lab, I decided to take probability and statistics, a theology course, and an intensive Russian language class. But I am more than ready to step back on campus and continue my journey that began with Wishbone in the summer of my junior year.”


Technically Brooklyn: “Send this Girls Who Code alumnae to programmer summer camp”

Check out Technically Brooklyn's feature of Wishbone student Vera and her fundraising campaign to attend iD Tech Camp:

"Vera is a 10th grader from Bushwick who wants to learn to code mobile apps. She has an idea for a STEM education app that she’d like to build with her science teacher, but needs to learn more about code to do it, even after getting started by taking part in Girls Who Code.


The teenager comes from a low income family and can’t afford the $899 in tuition it takes to attend a week of camp at idTech at NYU. So she’s turned for help to the crowdfunding platform Wishbone, which describes itself as working to eliminate the opportunity gap.

Wishbone staff split their time between California and the Cobble Hill offices of the Blue Ridge Foundation. They’ve built a platform that enables students to post videos and essays about what they would like to do and then put them up online for people to support.

Vera needs to raise $1077 to attend the camp, travel there each day and receive support along the way. Support her campaign here.

View the original article here:

First Lady Michelle Obama, Advocate for Low-Income College Access

As someone who considers First Lady Michelle Obama a role model, I was thrilled to learn that she has made low-income student enrollment in college a top priority for her remaining term as First Lady.

 It is common knowledge that Michelle Obama had a difficult time during her Princeton years. She even wrote in her 1985 senior thesis, “I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus, as if I don’t really belong.” Despite working hard and overcoming the odds to be admitted to and attend an Ivy League institution, she still had to face the challenges of being a minority on campus. By making college access for low-income students a priority, Michelle Obama is showing her commitment to ensuring that this is not the experience of future students.

 Wishbone plays an important role towards this effort, by sending high school students to premier universities and colleges over the summer months, and helping prepare them for college.

 Wishbone students have returned from their summer programs much more knowledgeable, not just about the topics they studied, but about what it will be like to attend college. They return with nuanced ideas about their college plans, saying, for example, that they now know they want to attend a small college, or that they want to major in engineering. Many of them express their shock at the absence of other students who look like them, or at the amount of freedom and responsibility they are given while on campus. They return, excited and confident about the prospect of applying to and attending college.

 The First Lady’s goal will be to move the United States from 12th to first in the world in the percent of college graduates by 2020. As she pushes this initiative forward, I hope Mrs. Obama will also recognize the crucial role that access to high-quality summer and after-school opportunities plays in readying low-income students for college. 

Julie Rubinger

Three Young Entrepreneurs Fighting Poverty Have Big Impact

We were thrilled to be in great company in Devin Thorpe’s Forbes article on social entrepreneurship. Read below for excerpts from his article, and the original full version is here:

"Jake Harriman says that if the company he’s founded still exists in 30 years, “we’ve failed.” You see, Harriman believes Nuru International can end extreme poverty in that time.

Harriman and I met at the Social Innovation Summit at Stanford this week, where I found a number of young entrepreneurs who are working to end poverty.

Beth Schmidt created a crowdfunding site called Wishbone to help poor high school students to raise funding to attend special university programs that help them prepare for college.

Leila Janah created Samasource to help U.S. companies crowdsource affordable staff from the developing world, providing women and young people with quality jobs that lift them out of poverty. Janah notes, “There are 1.4 billion people living on $1.25 per day or less. This is not acceptable.”


Schmidt’s Wishbone works with educators and nonprofits at schools where 70 percent or more of the students receive free or discounted lunch as a measure of community poverty.  The goal is to help students identify quality educational experiences, typically in a university environment, where the kids get exposed to other ambitious students and can be inspired to prepare for college themselves.

The typical program funded by Wishbone costs about $2,000—well out of the reach of low income families. Wishbone negotiates with the program operators to get a 50 percent discount and then seeks to raise the balance.

Wishbone students are all vetted and mentored by educational or nonprofit sponsors. This ensures that the students are prepared for the program and that they actually show up to participate. The sponsors also help to raise the money for the student.


Wishbone’s Schmidt found her cause while serving with Teach for America at Locke High School in South Central Los Angeles. Working in this inner city environment, she gave students a writing assignment that fewer than 10 percent of students turned in. After giving some thought to the assignment and talking to a few students, she gave a new assignment to identify their passion and talk about how to develop it into a career. Surprisingly, 85 percent of students turned in the assignment.

Several had especially well-developed plans for turning their passions into careers. A few included specific plans to attend programs hosted by universities but couldn’t afford it. Schmidt ran a marathon to help raise money to get the students into their programs.

Inspired by her success but exhausted by the marathon she recognized that she needed a better fundraising model and Wishbone was born.

Schmidt was recognized by Forbes as one of the 30 under 30 in Education in 2013.


These three amazing young entrepreneurs aren’t just hoping to end poverty, they’re actually doing something about it.”

About Us

Wishbone is a new non-profit sending low-income high school students to after school and summer programs.