App-a-thon Pairs Low-Income Kids with Corporate Mentors as They Compete to Design the Best Cell Phone Apps

Posted by Sheltering Arms on September 10, 2016 in Afterschool

Too often we find that corporate social responsibility comes up short as a service to our communities. We see companies treat social impact as a box to check by sending staff to paint a school once a year. It’s time to shift to a new model where companies leverage their human capital and immense resources to deliver real, lasting impact for underserved children and families like ours.

At Sheltering Arms, we’ve pioneered a solution and set a new standard for CSR – one that is realistic and impactful – both for companies and children. Our App-a-thon is a half-day mobile app development competition for low-income middle school students and corporate volunteers. We developed the curriculum to expose our kids to the skills and techniques employed by engineers and web developers during hackathons – the popular tech innovation competitions. Yet volunteers need no prior knowledge of technology or teacher training to work with students on the App-a-thon – just great entrepreneurial thinking skills and a desire to give back. Sheltering Arms staff provide all the guidance, materials, and fun.

We leverage partnerships with corporations to engage their employees in mentoring students throughout the project who traditionally lack exposure to role models in highly-skilled 21stCentury careers. Throughout six successful App-a-thons this summer, 150+ volunteers from DeloitteGoldman SachsThe Blackstone Group, and Barclays, Morgan Stanley, and PwC guided 220+ students from our education programs as they competed to come up with the best cell phone app solutions.

“Blackstone prides itself in innovating, and we’ve never seen an event like this. The experience was immersive and competitive, and gave us insight into an up-and-coming generation of future innovators,” said Julia Kahr, Senior Managing Director at Blackstone who volunteered at an App-a-thon.

Take a look at some of their best designs from the summer, and keep your eyes on the market for the latest apps from the minds of our students and their volunteer mentors!

Harlem students designed a social app where kids can compete with their friends to get ready for school and get to class the fastest. Competitors could add money to their mobile wallets to bet on each other’s success.

Goldman Sachs volunteers traveled all the way to our Bronx Community School to help students with their app ideas.

Students came up with apps that would solve social problems in their community or help those in need.

Volunteers from start-up companies and incubators loved the design-thinking approach to helping students come up with their apps and design their business plans.

This winning team decided on a “freemium” model to make money off their app.

Students and their volunteer partners came up with a “smart” pillow that could be programmed through a cell phone app to wake you up with your favorite song, and detect your sleep patterns.

Working with Blackstone volunteers, these students came up with an app to build healthy eating habits for users.

Students created wire frames, logos, and pricing strategies for their apps using their worksheets and advice from volunteers.