CO Succeeds Jumps in the Shark Tank: Watch the Mic Drop

What could you do in just two minutes? Could you face a room full of philanthropic “sharks” to secure funding to turn your big idea into a reality? That’s just what Colorado Succeeds’ own Scott Laband and Shannon Nicholas did during EDventure, a national education summit hosted by America Succeeds.

And, while real-life TV sharks such as Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, and Robert Herjavec may not have been in the room, the atmosphere was just as intense during our pitch to EDventure’s panel of sharks – which included representatives from the J.A. & Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, among others. The summit’s philanthropic twist on the popular ABC television series, the EDventure Shark Tank provides participants with the opportunity to seek funding for inspiring, innovative, and game-changing new ideas in education.

This wasn’t Colorado Succeeds first swim in the shark tank; In 2014 we walked away with 100 percent of requested funding for a project on evaluating school boards. This year, Scott and Shannon asked for $50,000 from the sharks to support technical assistance and communications that would help maximize the impact of HB-1289: The Job-Ready Students bill, which became law in May 2016. A sophisticated workforce development initiative, the innovative policy supports a pilot program that provides school districts with $1,000 bonus funding for every student who:

  1. Earns an industry-recognized certificate
  2. Completes a rigorous on-the-job training program while in school, or
  3. Passes the AP Computer Science test.

Since the incentives are based on in-demand jobs that deliver high wages, this flexible, voluntary program responds directly to the state’s workforce demands.

More than just about creating pathways for students to enter well-paying, secure jobs – though it will do that, too – the policy also will increase the relevance of education and engender inspirational aspirations for Colorado’s students. Here at Colorado Succeeds, we like to say, “If you can see it, you can be it.” HB-1289 helps students see themselves in their future careers and facilitates the steps necessary to get them there.

Scott and Shannon’s impassioned speech to the sharks highlighted the need for this promising program to be expanded, particularly in rural areas. As a further sign of support for the proposal, Durango Public Schools Superintendent Dan Snowberger provided a letter outlining why this grant would be critical to rural school districts like his own.

With a well thought out and heavily supported idea, the sharks were quick to inform Scott and Shannon (and the crowd) that they would indeed provide all of the requested funding – and then some – to support districts in implementing HB-1289. The unanimous support and enthusiasm from the sharks resulted in a literal mic drop by Scott.

At Colorado Succeeds, we don’t just pass policies and call it a day; we see things through and make sure Colorado’s laws are implemented with fidelity. With this extra funding in hand, we can ensure that school districts have the supports they need to take advantage of this exciting and innovative program. We look forward to working with Colorado school districts, as well as the business community and education leaders, to deliver on the promise of HB-1289.

Jamie Trafficanda

Manager of Communications and Programs
Colorado Succeeds