Wishbone's Beth Schmidt on "Redefining Your Future"

Wishbone's Beth Schmidt
Wishbone's Beth Schmidt

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week. In celebration, here is a Sam’s Dream Blog interview with Wishbone Founder Beth Schmidt. Wishbone is a Web Site that links at-risk high school students with an online donor community to partner with their educational dreams.

Beth shares about why dreams are important, why you must ask for help, and how a different perspective changes everything.  

Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your professional dream? How did your dream originate?

Beth Schmidt: My dream is for all low-income students to be able to pursue their passions, no matter what their economic circumstances may be. Dreams are important - they are what keep us optimistic and engaged in a sense of possibility for our lives. When low-income students have passions they can never realize, this sense of possibility and purpose dwindles. My dream is for all kids to pursue what they love. This dream for me originated when I was a teacher in South Central, Los Angeles at Locke High School. I was teaching 10th grade English and realized that many students had passions they wanted to pursue outside of the school day but could not afford them.

SDB: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Beth Schmidt: I am proud when I can inspire others to reach their potential. I think I accomplished this when I was teaching, but I think we also accomplish this everyday at Wishbone.org. My favorite thing is seeing the moment in a student’s face when they connect the dots and redefine their own futures - they create a new realization for what is possible in their lives. There is no better moment.

SDB: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dream?  What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

Beth Schmidt: Anytime you are creating something from nothing, there will be road blocks and challenges. Pursuing uncharted territory is risky, but it is also rewarding. The biggest challenge for me in creating Wishbone.org was being open to asking for help. I had never run an organization before - or started one for that matter - and I needed a lot of advice and help along the way.

I would tell others to not be afraid to be bold in their thinking.  It starts with creating a lofty vision of what could be possible and then working relentlessly to engage the stakeholders who will help you make your vision a reality.

SDB: How much of a difference does it make to a young person to be able to pursue his or her dreams and passions and then to have mentors supporting that process?

Beth Schmidt: All kids want someone to believe in them. Our students are supported by an 'Advocate' - a teacher, mentor, or coach who already exists in the student’s life. This 'Advocate' supports the student through the Wishbone.org application and matriculation process. What has been incredible to watch, though, is that most of our students are the activators of their own experience - they are logging on to Wishbone.org, looking at our program database, choosing a program in line with a passion and making the experience happen for themselves. They are committed to changing their own futures, which is an incredible thing to witness.

SDB: How does finding your passion "redefine your future," as your Web site says?

Beth Schmidt We have seen time and time again that when students have the opportunity - and the exposure - to pursue something they are passionate about, they are able to see what may be possible for their futures. Some of our students have never set foot on a college campus before, and many have never even left their neighborhoods. For them to venture out into the broader world, pursue a passion, and meet diverse people from all walks of life, helps them to re-define what could be possible for their lives. They see a different way of life and they become committed to pursuing that for themselves. After their program experience, our students are more engaged in school because they realize the relevance of a high school education in pursuing their dreams.

Thanks for reading Sam’s Dream Blog!  Learn more about Wishbone's Beth Schmidt here. Check back with SDB for the next feature on May 13.  Sign up for social media updates, and tell a friend while you are at it!