I wrote a grant to secure the first $15k to start Classroom to Community in early 2019. Since then, I grew the organization to support over 30 students across 6 product teams and raised an additional $50k in funding to expand our programs.
Classroom to Community aims to bridge the gap between academic projects and real-world impact. I started the organization, designed the program framework and design studio workspace, and managed deliverables and budgets for 6 product teams.
In late 2018, I was working on a startup called Posture Protect based on a capstone design project from a class called The Art of Making. Making progress was challenging for me and my co-founder without the structure, deadlines, and community support of a classroom setting while we had our attention pulled in other directions by urgent-but-not-important coursework deadlines.
Based on this struggle, I pitched the idea of Classroom to Community to my bioengineering professor: what if we could provide support to students with promising academic projects to develop them more fully into solutions that make a real-world impact?
After bringing my professor on board as the faculty lead, I wrote our first grant application and in early 2019 we received $15,000 in funding from the Provost's Office at the University of Pittsburgh for a pilot of the idea. Over the next year, I brought together student innovators on campus with promising academic projects to co-design a way to guide their projects toward real-world impact. As Design & Innovation Manager, I grew Classroom to Community to support 30 students across 6 product teams and built systems that are still used to operate the organization.
In 2020, we received another $50,000 in grant funding to expand our aims and build a new partnership with the University Honors College to increase the number of students and projects we support.
Projects we supported during this time included,
Today, Classroom to Community is a program for students who want to develop their “design superpowers” as they creatively invent solutions for real-world problems and needs. We provide space, resources, mentorship and a vibrant community for students to learn rigorous, academically-validated design thinking methods and powerful tools for human-centered design. We help students develop their creative abilities by combining people, design, technology and community-engaged scholarship — all fueled by student agency and a passion for creating solutions with tangible impact. We aim to foster a culture of innovation and a multidisciplinary communal learning environment in which students share and learn from and with each other.
Our ultimate goals are to empower students to discover their creative potential and develop the skills and mindsets to innovate effective solutions to real-world problems now and throughout their careers. We want all students to enjoy the creative paradigm of design that transforms ideas into something new in the world that benefits others. We also look forward to Classroom to Community participants designing and inventing their own life and career pathways and our collective futures.