A dozen years ago, Eric Goldstein was teaching at SEED Public Charter School in Ward 7 and grappling with why only 20% of his students had turned in a recent written assignment. He decided it was time for a new approach. He had students choose their own topics, having them pick a social justice issue relevant to their own lives. 

 Given the responsibility to choose their own topics, Goldstein’s students engaged. He then taught them how to turn their thoughts into well-organized essays backed by hard evidence. Twelve years later, what started as a writing project in one classroom is now the largest writing program in D.C. schools. serving about 5,000 students a year. 

Teachers and students will tell you why. “The One World Education program teaches rigorous writing skills but it lets students advocate for things that matter to them, said Desiree Raught, a teacher at McKinley Tech HS in Northeast D.C. who has used the One World Program for six years. “They make meaning for themselves.”

Students also value the recognition and rewards that come with the program.  “I’m published,” 11th-grader Mikel Poole declares with audible pride. Poole’s research and writing on mental health in the black community is on the homepage of One World’s website. “Some black people don’t take mental illness as seriously as other people do. As a young woman in the black community, I believe we have to be stronger, but it can feel as if there’s other stuff going on that needs more attention at times. But you can’t be a productive person if your mental health is deteriorating. I’m passionate about raising awareness on the subject.” 

Her fellow 11th-grader, Nicole Pendergast, won scholarship money toward college tuition for her presentation on LGBTQ bullying at One World’s annual District-wide public speaking challenge last March. “I see a lot of bullying [of LGBTQ people] on social media, and I want to put a stop to it,” Pendergast says of her chosen topic. 

After his initial success in his classroom, Goldstein and another teacher developed the entire One World Education curriculum for teaching the writing process. It begins with students choosing their own topics. The curriculum then guides students through a rigorous step-by step process“of evaluating sources, creating a bibliography, and writing a research paper, developing research, critical thinking, public speaking, and active listening skills along the way. 

“Writing is really challenging,” said Goldstein.  “It is arguably the most challenging skill there is to both teach and learn. We make sure that both teachers and students have all the support they need to build this critical skill.” 

This past school year, Raught was one of a handful of area teachers selected to beta test an online version of the curriculum. “Watching them do One World on the computer felt closer to the college experience than you get with pen-and-paper research projects . . . I think it’s really giving the students that college readiness,” she says of the experience.

Goldstein says “Capital One’s investment in designing this digital platformspecifically our research portal and student writing librarywill result in a resource unlike anything that’s available in D.C. schools currently.”

It was the potential for innovation in engaging with local students that caught the attention of Naomi Smouha, a community affairs manager for Capital One. She identifies regional nonprofits whose work aligns with Capital One’s philanthropic mission, curating partnerships based on the needs of a community. 

“We’re really looking to ensure that individuals and families are prepared for the 21st century economy,” Smouha says of Capital One’s overall philanthropic mission. “We are training the innovators of tomorrow, investing in nonprofits with creative approaches and bringing together problem solvers to address difficult community and societal challenges. With its college- and career-readiness focus areas and ability to apply innovative technology to a battle-tested program, One World was a perfect fit. “

“One of the greatest components of the partnership has been connecting with the Capital One network,” Goldstein says. “Their developers have been able to help us navigate digital challenges that we don’t have the expertise for on our team. The organization sees this partnership as so much more than a fiscal investmentit’s a thought partnership.” 

The partnership started in 2017, taking plans for the digitization of One World and slowly making them a reality. The research portal and student library are nearly finished and will be rolled out by the end of the year, and an enhanced digital platform is expected to roll out in more schools by the end of 2020.

“It’s not just about having the skills to research and write a paper, it’s learning how to ascertain what is correct information and how to relay your perspective in a persuasive manner,” says Smouha of the goal of the partnership. “By teaching the importance of writing and relaying a viewpoint effectively, One World is helping our youth with the critical skills to be future leaders, whether their next step is college or career.  Capital One is happy to support programs that help to strengthen our youth to ensure their success and be prepared to thrive in the new digital economy.”

Capital One is focused on making real and lasting change, relying on a vast network of nonprofit organizations and local leaders who enhance educational opportunities, provide job training, build safe and affordable housing, deliver financial education and promote small business development.

To learn more about Capital One visit www.capitalone.com/about and follow them on twitter @CapitalOneNews