High School HeroesX Philadelphia Challenge

I'm Eli Wachs and I founded High School Heroes with the belief that youth can effect meaningful change on the world both today and tomorrow. Read Overview...
Funding goal

The below information is on High School HeroesX' first challenge, based in Philadelphia on narrowing the education gap. For more information on High School HeroesX and their current challenges, please visit their website www.highschoolheroesx.com.


For many years the graduation rate for high school students in Philadelphia hovered between 50% and 60%. While the rate has recently started to inch up, more than one third of students still do not graduate.

Some statistics as put into graphic form by our High School HeroesX design team:

Given these factors, a cycle of underemployment and poverty is being
perpetuated. Graduation from high school makes people more likely to be productive and prosperous members of society.

This issue persists for many reasons, but as high school students, we think and, perhaps with naive optimism believe, that the challenge of increasing high school graduation rates in the Philadelphia area is solvable. Students involved in developing this challenge and competing to solve it are, for the most part, from schools in an economically advantaged region of the Philadelphia suburbs called The Main Line. They would like to help their peers in the region, in the hope that the zip code one comes from will not define their education opportunities and, subsequently, their opportunities to prosper in life.

The team that "wins" this challenge a year from now is the one that will have earned the most points using the criteria below while achieving the stated breakthrough in a way that can be replicated and scaled throughout the city. The following criteria will be judged by a to be announced challenge Board of Directors, which will have a representative from each participating school. 

  • Either A) how your curriculm narrows the education gap or B) how your curriculum will allow students to both reach college and find a job more easily than before (40 points)
  •  The curriculum is scalable;  in other words, it could be utilized in other schools and/or cities (30 points)
  • Students are more excited to learn than they were before your curriculum (20 points)
  • Students are provided with the tools they need that are not taught in school (10 points)


Also, please see below a more detailed timeline of the challenge and an introduction to the High School HeroesX organization.


Challenge Schedule

Date Task
 Friday, November 21st 2014 Challenge launches.
Wednesday, January 21st 2015 An Advisory Committee will have been established to help with the challenge.
Saturday, February 21st Students of all participating schools will reconvene to provide updates on their progress, share what has and has not worked for them, and talk about future steps in each school's "solution".
Sunday, June 7th Students from all participating schools reconvene once more before schools are dismissed for summer break to provide updates on their progress and talk about goals to accomplish over the summer.
Saturday, November 21st 2015 Students come together one last time to pitch their solutions, the impacts that they have caused, and why they should receive part of the grant money to continue to fund their plan in a greater area. After the challenge board of directors listens to the pitches, it will meet to decide the which schools will receive grant money to continue to expand their challenge solution.


High School HeroesX Introduction


My name is Eli Wachs, and I founded High School HeroesX with the belief that youth can effect meaningful change on the world both today and tomorrow. As XPRIZE founder Peter Diamandis writes in his book Abudance, it is no coincidence that young people were behind getting spacecraft's to the moon in the 60's and behind the dot.com boom.


While I’ve followed with amazement contests that XPRIZE has developed and executed, like the Ansari XPRIZE, which gave birth to commercial spaceflight, and the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup XChallenge, as a high school student, I thought it would be great to be able to get classmates and others in the community to participate in a competition that could benefit our community, and we could see the difference we make. What if we took the competitive multiplier effect inherent to XPRIZE, but applied it to doing good locally?


That’s exactly what High School HeroeX has been designed to do, and with the help of the founders of HeroX, I am proud to have created the first student designed and led HeroX challenge.


My goal is to reach out to students in the Philadelphia area to hear their ideas for innovation and change. Whether it be developing a more efficient and environmentally friendly road salt in light of the record winter Philadelphia just witnessed, or an audacious idea to develop Philadelphia’s waterfront, I invite all to post their ideas for a better tomorrow. With a challenge design session among students to be held October 26th 2014, I encourage all to research issues in the area and think about what they would fix if they had a magic wand they could wave over the city and surrounding area. The point is to be audacious and think big—not to be limited by what you think is possible.


Any type of student can be a Hero. this was a challenge entirely created and designed by high school students. This means that the majority of those working on the challenge not only found this a worthy cause to champion, but also know enough about the issue to identify key breakthroughs needed to make a major impact in our community. Though the issue of under-education has long been present, it became clear to me through conversations with Montgommery County District Attourney Risa Vetri Ferman and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter that the people to best understand high school education are high schoolers themseves. Therefore, any student, is "best suited" for this challenge because every day they walk and live the reality of what teaches students, what interests students, and what inspires students.


--Eli Wachs

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