It’s no small feat making Forbes “30 Under 30” roundup, which in 2017 boasts an acceptance rate of less than 4 percent. (Shots at getting into Stanford and Harvard are both higher.) The magazine’s “30 Under 30” list, which highlights young leaders in fields such as technology, music and healthcare, added education to the list in 2013 and since then has grown from nearly 90 nominations in 2014 to more than 450 last year.
Selected by Stacey Childress (CEO NewSchools Venture Fund), Arne Duncan (Managing Partner at Emerson Collective and former U.S. Secretary of Education), Wendy Kopp (Cofounder of Teach for All) and Marcus Noel (Founder of Heart of Man Ventures), this year’s group of 44 20-somethings are tackling everything from coding to college admission, as well as opportunity gaps in the education space. Though their talents, projects and backgrounds span wide, we’ve grouped them into several buckets to help you get to know the 2017 cohort:
Nonprofits again made up a hefty portion of the highlighted work being done to make education more accessible to all students. This year’s list celebrates changemakers like Jirayut Latthivongskorn (27) and Denisse Rojas Marquez (27), cofounders of Pre-Health Dreamers, a national organization helping undocumented students on the path to medical and health care careers.
There’s also Blair Brettschneider (27), who founded GirlForward to provide education, mentorship and leadership opportunities to refugee girls, and Mendell Grinter (25), whose advocacy group Campaign for School Equity helps expand high-quality education for students of color in Tennessee by engaging families and community members in local and state policy-making.
The list also features Yoga Foster founder Nicole Cardoza (27), whose free yoga and mindfulness lessons have benefitted 20,000 students in 39 states so far. Evin Robinson and Jessica Santana, cofounders of New York on Tech, were also recognized for the work they do to make pathways in technology for underrepresented youth.
The Teach For America Alumni
Having experience in the classroom wasn’t a prerequisite to make the Forbes list, but several honorees this year do. And although no current classroom teachers are included this year, 2017 brought with it another batch of former Teach for America (TFA) educators. The list includes Ryan Hoch (29), a one-time TFA math teacher who in 2013 co-founded the college readiness platform Overgrad. CASA Academy co-CEO Jenna Leahy (28), another TFA alum and “30 Under 30” honoree, heads up the Arizona-based charter school where more than 70 percent of students are English language learners.
There’s even a TFA duo: Jacob Allen (28) and Marie Dandie (27), who co-founded pilotED Schools in Chicago to “develop strong identities as black and brown students.” Forbes also featured former TFA teachers Hardy Farrow (26), who’s now executive director of Let’s Innovate through Education, and honorCode CEO Jeffrey Martín (25) whose co-founder, Dylan Stone-Miller (26) also appears on the list.
Unique this year are the honorees working on education from the inside: students. That includes Brown University and Google Student ambassador Cliff Weitzman (22), who founded Speechify to help students with reading disorders and other difficulties. Harvard juniors Luke Heine (22) and Cole Scanlon (20) also earned a spot on the list after cofounding the Fair Opportunity Project, a college application and financial aid guide that offers low-income high school students free information about things such as testing, interviewing and scholarships.
There’s also Executive Director for African American Teaching Fellows Tamara Wilkerson (26), who is working to increase diversity among U.S. teachers, of whom just 7 percent are black. She’s a student, too, earning an Ed.D. at Morgan State University.
The Tool and School-Starters
Forbes again tipped its hat to several tool-makers and edtech innovators. First up are Jacobi Petrucciani (22), Prahasith Veluvolu (21) and Colton Voege (21)—the youngest members of Y Combinator’s 2015 cohort—who together founded the AI grading and feedback platform Mirmir. Sophia Parsa (25) and Shakib Zabihian (25), cofounders of online and on-demand tutor service toot, were also highlighted.
BrainStation founder Jason Field (27) was given the honor for his blended-learning-based coding school, which reaches nearly 25,000 learners throughout the Americas. Leandra Tejedor (25), cofounder of Vidcode, made the list for providing a coding curriculum that reaches students through social media videos (and has even partnered with Snapchat to teach users how to code their own filters).
ArcBotics cofounders Connie Hu (27) and Joseph Schlesinger (27) also received the recognition for their robotics and programming lesson company, which has been used in 78 countries and universities such as Stanford and MIT.
Coupled with every innovative idea and product is the need for funding. Two of this year’s “30 Under 30” education honorees are filling that role—and are some of the youngest to do so. Jeremy Fiance (25), founder of The House Fund, is one of them. Finance, a UC Berkeley grad, runs the $6 million pre-seed and seed stage venture fund to support Berkeley-bred entrepreneurs including students, faculty, universities employees and alumni.
Joe Vasquez (27) is also helping fund new education endeavors with this social impact accelerator program, Michelson Runway, which awarded a minimum $25,000 equity investment to each of its five startups in its first cohort last year.
Other Members of the Forbes “30 Under 30” Ed Club for 2017:
- Gregory Brown (28) and Mitchell Moffit (28), creators of AsapSCIENCE
- Louise Baigelman (29), cofounder of Story Shares
- Rachel Romer Carlson (28) and Brittany Stich (28), cofounders of Guild Education
- Sieva Kozinsky (26) cofounder of StudySoup
- Jonathan Gottfried 26) and Mike Swift (27), cofounders of Major League Hacking
- Elijah Mayfield (27), Vice President of New Technologies at Turnitin
- Jordan Levy (24), Andrew Pohle (27) and Jack Schaufeld (24), cofounders of Real Time Cases
- Shanyn Ronis (29), founder of Education Global Access Program
- Jeff Sorensen (27), founder of optiMize
Alec Whitters (29), CEO of Higher Learning Technologies
Editor's note: A previous version of this story said Michelson Runway awarded cohort members $25,000 each. This figure has been corrected to reflect that the accelerator awarded a minimum of $25,000 to each of its startups.