The teen panel at Women in DE Innovation and Technology Day during Delaware Innovation Week wasn’t intended to be a showcase for Dual School, the high school project-based learning program supported by The Paul and Linda McConnell Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative and Horn Entrepreneurship.
Even though Zack Jones, the program’s director, was among the people who recommended young women for the panel, he wasn’t the only one to do so. It was only through the moderated Q & A session that it came to light: all of the young panelists had gone through the program at one point or another.
The four panelists have different backgrounds and passions:
- Dorcas Olatunji is an entrepreneur whose idea, T^2 (an app that is essentially “Uber for high school students”) won the Great Dames Remarkable Youth Pitch Competition just days before.
- Dorcas’ twin sister, Deborah Olatunji, is a youth board member for GripTape, a youth-driven learning program, and a photographer.
- Riya Setty’s coding curriculum is being used at Newark Charter.
- Megan Chen is a young author whose first childrens’ book, Finding Tiger, has been published and is available on Amazon
That these driven young women all went through a Dual School cohort brings to mind the old chicken-and-egg conundrum: Did the program create these achievers, or does the program draw teens who are achievers in the first place?
In truth, it’s probably a bit of both. All of the girls are clearly driven. But each of them also talked about how their mentors (a major component of project-based learning) helped them turn their ideas into realities.
Highly-driven students, regardless of gender, are drawn to Dual School – yet they come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. One of the program’s stated purposes is to create an educational space that is not focused just on projects, but on inclusion. There are few places in Delaware where affluent private school teens mix with low-income public school teens – not in a charity context, but as equals.
Still, the reality is, it’s generally easier for more advantaged teens to attend the cohorts located at 1313 Innovation, as well a students of the nearby Friere Charter on West 14th Street and Great Oaks Charter at the Community Education Building down the block.
To give more public school students the opportunity, the newest Dual School program is located at William Penn High School in New Castle. Despite its reputation as a historically underresourced school, is quickly becoming one of the most innovative high schools in the state.
Dual School is always looking for local professionals to be mentors, give talks, host workshops and sponsor cohorts. Here’s how to get involved. To find out when student applications for the next session open, join their email list.-30-