Like all of us, Andrew grew up with dreams – to travel in time to meet Walt Disney, to play shortstop for the Yankees, to run a marathon on every continent, to perform as the Genie in Aladdin on Ice, to sing in the Man of La Mancha.
But one toddler-era dream has stood the test of time: to build a movement that empowers people to live their passions and fulfill their dreams. Along the way, that vision met Andrew's passion for learning, teams, and social entrepreneurship. And after serving as Editor in Chief of the Yale Daily News, a speechwriter for Vice President Biden and Attorney General Holder, and a senior entrepreneur at Ashoka, Andrew co-founded The Future Project. In so doing, he found that millions of others shared the vision for a new era of inspiration.
When not CEO-ing and co-founding, Andrew can be found daydreaming about Ben Franklin and listening to every theme song John Williams has ever composed.
Kanya has education running in her blood. Born in South Korea, she spent her childhood in Japan and LA (where her mom was a teacher in an inner-city school), then a decade growing up in Memphis, TN, where she coached and guided hundreds of students in after-school centers run by her parents. After graduating from Yale, where she studied anthropology and served as Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News, she went to work as the chief speechwriter to the commissioner of the FDA before co-Founding The Future Project.
Shes' not just President of The Future Project. Fifteen years ago, in response to the questions "What can we do to make mom and dad happier?" and "How can we make sure we walk our dog?," she founded the Three Sisters’ Club, which consists of her and, you guessed it, her two sisters, Aditi and Anjali. An entrepreneur from the word GO.
It surprises none of us that when Christian was younger, he wanted to be just like Bruce Springsteen. He assures us that floating out there somewhere is a picture of him in a denim vest and American flag bandanna.
He took his passion for finding the magic in everyday experiences and channeled it into acting. From here, the story takes a couple of truly fortuitous turns. In college, Great Caesar, the band fronted by NYC Dream Director John-Michael Parker, played at his college. He found out about The Future Project soon after.
And when interviewing for the Dream Director position, we asked Christian if he’d ever heard of High School in the Community in New Haven. Little did we know that he’d just performed there, as an actor, not long before. Call it luck. Call it fate. We call it a huge win for us.
You could be forgiven for assuming that Divine was born and raised in Newark, NJ, even though he just recently moved there. That's because if you hear him talk about the possibilities he sees for the city, you know it's where his heart is.
Divine's always been one to look at spaces—school hallways, empty lots, the sides of buildings—and imagine what they could be. Growing up in Brooklyn, he even turned half of his parents' home into a community center.
So Divine's got a lot of practice imagining what things could be, and making it happen. And as Dream Director at Malcolm X. Shabazz High School in Newark, he's got some of the greatest people, and a great city, to imagine and do it with.
Eve is about as passionate a fan of baseball as you're likely to find. Anywhere. The stats. The rivalries. The devotion that can only come from a fan who has lived and breathed baseball since she was a kid.
But more than that, Eve just loves how sport brings out the best in people, unleashes the champion and the dreamer in everybody.
She's done that as a high school track coach, and now, as Dream Director at Hill Regional Career High School in New Haven, she's doing it again. Not necessarily through sport, or glory on the field. But by building grit, belief, and dreams of all kinds.
A native of New Haven, Frank just loves his city, and comes to us from its thriving arts and culture scene. A writer and spoken-word poet, he initially found us by performing at an open mic, which just so happened to be a Project organized by one of our Fellows. Talk about serendipity.
Now, Frank’s the Dream Director at Wilbur Cross High School, where he can’t wait to to find students who are diamonds in the rough, help them find their passions, and give teachers the opportunity to see them in a new light.
A son of New Haven, a city he loves, George wasn't always sure that that's where he wanted to stay. For a while, all he wanted was to get away. All he dreamed about was being someplace else.
But when George was younger, his mom would always keep him and his brother inside the house, because she wanted to keep them safe. So they created their own imaginary world. George was King Tetsudo, who had the power to shape the world around him, and was also a compassionate, loving king.
From that early age, George already knew he valued those qualities. They're what keep him in New Haven, and what brings him to Riverside Academy as its Dream Director. He's got a desire, and the power, to shape the city around him. And he's got the compassion and the love to give Riverside's students the belief that they can do the same for the city they love.
After teaching high-school science for a year, John-Michael’s love for young people brought him to The Future Project. During his time here, he’s inspired hundreds of students, Coaches and teachers.
After two years as the Dream Director at the Richard R. Green High School in NYC, he's handed over the reins to Joyce (up the page just a little bit), he's now our National Dream Director, giving support to all our Dream Directors and working on partnerships with our cities.
He moonlights on various stages around New York City, fronting his band, Great Caesar.
When Joyce needs to dig deep, to find some courage, she just asks herself, "What would Annie do?" That would be Annie, the red-headed orphan. To Joyce, she's long represented a kind of spontaneous, joyful courage that lets you be yourself. She's even gotten to play Annie (twice!).
You should talk to Joyce about her life growing up, because she's really cool. The way she figured out that the best way to describe her wasn't as a kid with a learning disability, but as someone with a very particular set of skills and talents. How she measures success by feeling what's right. And how, in her high school, she learned that "it was unacceptable to give up."
Her humor will disarm you, but beneath that surface is a genuine love for helping people discover what makes them courageous. As Dream Director at Richard R. Green High School in NYC, she might even end up asking her student dreamers what Annie would do.
As the Dream Director at Leadership Institute in the Bronx Kleaver is working with his students to locate the passions that push them forward, and to build projects that leave their mark on their school before they go off to college.
Kleaver’s own passion is writing, which he knew in the second grade as soon as he read his first lines of Maya Angelou. When he asked his teacher what he could do, she just told him to go write. So he wrote his first book of poetry, “Through My Window: A collection of poems.”
He still carries it around in his backpack every day. He says it’s one of the things that keeps it going, and calls it the “battery in his back.”
Lamarr likes to say that his passion is passion itself. Which makes complete sense as soon as you talk to him. He's built his life around listening, inspiring, and sharing with other people the things he's learned.
Hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, Lamarr carries with him years of experience as a motivational speaker. He started the organization Passion for Leadership, which works with young people to build something from their dreams.
After all, if your passion is passion, why not start a company whose mission is to spread it? Which is exactly what Lamarr is doing as Dream Director at College Academy in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City.
Born and raised in New Haven, CT, Laura just can’t get enough of her hometown. After a brief leave of absence in Ann Arbor for college, she returned and began leading The Future Project’s New Haven program.
Despite the fact that she couldn’t, and still can’t, draw, Laura wanted to be an illustrator. But she’s found a way to channel those skills in order to imagine, design and implement magical experiences for our Fellows as the Dream Director at New Haven Academy.
And don’t mess with New Haven, because Laura will come after you…with smiles, laughter and inspiration.
Maritza is living out one of her dreams—to teach young people that they can create things for themselves, be entrepreneurs, and break the rules.
In fact, one of her most perfect moments came about because she decided to break the rules. It happened at a post-season game at Fenway Park, when she was working for the Boston Red Sox. Maritza always listened to the national anthem from her office, because the stands were packed. But at one game, she decided to just do it. She walked onto the field, and sang the Anthem from the diamond.
Those feelings of wonder and awe that she felt are what she dreams of passing on to the students at the Henry Street School, on New York’s Lower East Side.
When she was a kid, Nataliya's dad would sing and play the guitar—mostly old Russian romance songs and ballads. And Nataliya wanted nothing more than to learn them, too. So she took guitar lessons, and she begged him to teach her, but it never clicked.
So, years later, she did what any dreamer would do when caught in that jam. She stole her dad's guitar, and with a little elbow grease and whole lot of passion and love, taught herself how to play and sing those ballads that fascinated her years ago.
That total joy you feel, in pursuit of the things you love, is what Nataliya has made her last few years as a teacher in Philadelphia all about. And it's that desire to take a dream and just start building it that she's bringing this year to Metropolitan Business Academy in New Haven.
“Miss Shantae J.,” as the students at Woodrow Wilson High School call her, is the Dream Director at our launch high school in DC. She wanted to be a cop and detective when she was a kid. Not because she wanted to bring bad guys to justice, but because she wanted to drive around in “a really cool car that was unmarked.”
That didn’t work out, but what she’s doing now is just as cool—cruising around the school in her trademark blazer and flashy blue buttons, talking to students and making them realize their own possibility.
If you ask Tim about the best project he’s ever built, he’ll tell you about a contraption he made in the fifth grade that included levers, pullies, plastic tubes and toy cars, all in an attempt to design a really complicated way to store an egg.
But in reality, his most awesome project is probably Spread the Word to End the Word, a global campaign he co-founded to end the use of the word “retard” and transform attitudes toward people with intellectual disabilities.
As the Dream Director at the Lab School in Chelsea, Tim’s combining his excitement for crazy ideas and movement building to get students to do the same.
A lot of people care about civil rights and social activism. But not too many of them had grandmothers who had them out on picket lines in South Carolina when they were five years old.
Voncia's grandmother Martina (whom she calls Martina Luther King) did just that. And those early years inspired in Voncia a desire to work with young people as they discover their voices, create and own who they are, and build a world of equality and respect.
She's been building that world with her students as a public school teacher in Miami, and before that as a Teach for America corps member. And she'll eventually (she just knows it) bring it to the halls of the Capitol as a US Senator. But for now, she's our Dream Director at Eastern High School in Washington, DC.
Alex Colby sees the world through the lens of a camera. His genius is taking the ordinary and subtle beauty of every day life and putting it on a screen in a way that makes your heart pound and your eyes swell. He's been doing this as a freelance filmmaker since he taught himself how to make movies on a point-and-shoot during a college internship in Sweden, and comes to The Future Project after serving as Director of Multimedia at the National co-working space, WeWork.
Andy’s dreamed up tons of brilliant ideas: a short movie with dialogue pilfered from Coolio and Outkast lyrics; an algorithm for an app that weighs the price, health and deliciousness of that grocery item you’ve been eyeing; a medley about a comically distressed night out, sung and arranged exclusively to parodies of songs from the Lion King soundtrack. He’s actually done them all, too.
A true Renaissance man, Andy, after excursions into documentary film and restaurants, is taking those creative impulses, shooting them through a business school prism, and using those freshly refracted pieces to help build The Future Project’s look and feel.
Chris is an investor, philanthropist and inventor who builds crazy stealth vehicles and other never-before-dreamed-of products. He moonlights as a martial artist who fights crime outside the bounds of the law, dressed completely in black to blend seamlessly into the night. Although his penchant for vigilante justice has earned him the ire of the police, they still send up a signal into the sky every time he’s desperately needed.
He also codes websites, and has built this one. A true master of all trades.
Dan is not at all embarrassed to tell you that he threw his 9th birthday party at the IKEA in Elizabeth, NJ. Was it the Swedish meatballs that drew him in? Nope. Was it the furniture? Guess again. Was it the fact that IKEA was right across the highway from Newark International Airport? Bingo. He spent the party with his face pressed to the glass, mesmerized at the thought of flying, the people in the planes, where they were going, what they were leaving.
But after reading a lot of books and writing a lot of papers as an English major, and spending two years working at the film and global campaign 10x10: Girl Rising, Dan likes to lose himself in the stories of all the weird, maddening, and inspiring people he meets.
Gabrielle is a self-proclaimed “ginormous dreamer” who spent her lunches in school huddled under her teacher’s desk, writing stories about her dreams. Thinking back to the “junk drawer” she kept and built projects from, she realized that she belonged at The Future Project with other dreamers and doers.
From a background in researching the psychology of creativity and design-thinking and innovation in learning during her time at the Harvard Ed School, Gabrielle is the brains behind our impact and evaluation. She takes cutting-edge educational and psychological research to design the systems we use to track and analyze our results, and inform the rest of the R&D team as they design new products and experiences.
Although Ian hasn’t fulfilled his childhood dream of being an architect who specializes in LEGOs, he’s having a great time with us. He’s been with us from the start as one of the first people building The Future Project from its beginnings as a crazy idea, into a crazy idea that’s actually happening.
As a result, he’s the perfect person to design and implement one of our most important products: the Coach experience. So from meet-ups to skill sharing to trainings, he’s designing and building the year-long experience guiding our Coaches not just to help their Fellows build a project, but also to unleash Coaches’ own passions and give them opportunities to put them into action.
He comes to us from the New York-based communications and advocacy firm Global Health Strategies as well as a time spent touring the country with his band, the slowest runner in all the world.
In another life, Ian would be composing music for films.
When Milena was younger, she dreamed of becoming a marine biologist, dinosaur hunter, and dentist. While she continues to have a deep appreciation for sea anemones, dinosaurs and (teeth?), she is now thrilled to be working at The Future Project as the Chief of Staff.
Milena found her way here after working in banking, spending a few years as a Kiva Fellow in Bosnia, Kenya and the Philippines, and founding Pando Projects, an organization that helped young people launch projects that transform communities and tackle the problems facing our planet.
When not working, Milena loves travel, backpacking, cooking, skiing, and daydreaming.
You probably couldn't say that Paul's life has been a roller coaster ride. But you can sure bet he wishes it had been.
We don't mean that as a metaphor. Paul loves roller coasters. He's obsessed with amusement parks. He relentlessly imagines different ways to design them and run them. He even occasionally makes a trip to one.
Paul knows that in order for everyone to have fun, things have to run efficiently. T's crossed, i's dotted. Seat belts fastened.
That's what he does for us. He keeps us on track, so that we can navigate the ups and downs and just enjoy the ride.
For years, Sallome has dreamed of giving every high school student in America a life coach. Kinda strange, right? She never dreamed that she’d actually find a job that allowed her to do that, but she did!
Sallome is all about bringing people together, and is most proud of A Great Day in Brooklyn, a visual blueprint she created of Brooklyn residents merging the worlds of art, activism and entrepreneurship.
At The Future Project, Sallome designs and creates trainings and life-affirming experiences for our Dream Directors. And the fact that she gets paid to do it? Just a cherry on top.
We’re always surprised how the best people out there are already in our circles. After playing soccer with Dream Director Laura Winnick’s roommate when she was 10, Sarah ran into her 15 years later, and heard all about The Future Project. The rest, as they say, is possibility.
Sarah has built classrooms out of Eco-Bottles and inorganic trash as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala. That kind of brilliance and resourcefulness comes in handy as she coordinates our work across New Haven, helping to transform it into the first Future City.
A game designer by training, Zac cut his teeth designing games and experiences for Wizards of the Coast. Designing games is exactly what he wanted to do when he was younger, so count that as one dream fulfilled.
That, coupled with a stint as a policy analyst in Kuala Lumpur developing the first Freedom of Information legislation in Malaysian history, eventually led Zac to The Future Project, where he runs the R&D team, creating revolutionary products and services for Fellows and Coaches.