Talk to any educator or student and they’ll tell you that the past year was unlike any other in the history of education. Classes suddenly went virtual in March of 2020, university freshmen attended fall 2020 classes at universities they had never seen in person, K-12 educators and students navigated the world of blended learning, and Zoom went from being business conferencing software to EdTech. Along the way, the pandemic and national reckonings over race increased awareness of diversity, inclusion, and equity in terms of curriculum, access to high-speed internet, and more.
Encouraging Trends in Education
More broadly, data shows encouraging trends in education. In the United States, the percentage of the population age 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree increased 5% when comparing 2015-2019 versus 2005-2009. Groups historically underrepresented in college settings had even higher increases in bachelor’s degree attainment. Degree attainment among those who identified as Black increased 25.4% over the same time period; those who identified as Hispanic or Latino increased 30.3%; and those who identified as two or more races increased by 35.9%. The growth is meaningful progress, as individuals with bachelor’s degrees or higher have, on average, higher lifetime earnings, lower rates of unemployment, and better health outcomes than non-college graduates.
Veteran Entrepreneurs Tackling Education
In the 21a Bunker Labs Veterans in Residence cohort, we have entrepreneurs tackling the full scope of today’s most pressing issues in education and seeking to increase the quality and relevance of education in the United States. Read on and check out the video interviews to learn more.
Founder: Steph Manuel
Military Affiliation: U.S. Army Veteran
Location: Evanston, IL
How you can help:
Steph seeks connections with teachers of grades 6–12 (including civics, history, social studies, ELA) who want to make their classrooms more culturally relevant and teach from diverse perspectives, as well as principals who share that mission for their school.
K-12 history is often written and taught from the perspective of the winners of history, which leaves gaps in cultural perspectives that are essential to understanding current social issues. Steph Manuel founded TrueFiktion to provide supplemental history content—in the form of comics and matching curriculum—that teaches American history from a culturally relevant perspective.
Steph’s goal is that every student can see themselves in their own history education, regardless of their race, gender, or where their parents came from, and to learn that history in an engaging format that empowers students to have agency over their lives.
TrueFiktion’s team includes artists who have worked for Marvel and DC Comics and educators who consult on multicultural curriculum design and pedagogy. Their currently have three products, a story of a Black World War II veteran, a story about Brown v. The Board of Education from a Black teacher’s perspective, and the story of Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre from the perspective of a young Black boy.
Learn more about the work TrueFiktion is doing in the educational space by visiting their website.
Founder: Chad Rairie
Military Affiliation: U.S. Marine Corps Veteran
Location: Dallas, TX
How you can help:
Know a veteran interested in attending college? Send them Chad’s way. Have feedback, positive or negative, on your own experience as a veteran in college? Share your experience with Chad. He’ll use the information to improve his recommendations to veterans and colleges.
Valor Education helps veterans get into the best school they can and find success once they are there. Chad Rairie founded Valor Education after he attended Dartmouth and found that he was in over his head when it came to the enrollment process and how to succeed in school. He struggled through, as he put it, and founded Valor Education to help others navigate the experience more smoothly. Valor Education seeks to help veterans find schools that give them the best education possible, decrease drop-out rates, and increase veterans’ long-term career success. Helping veterans succeed in college selection and graduation also increases the return on taxpayer dollars, which fund the G.I. Bill program.
Interested in learning more? Connect with Chad on LinkedIn.
Founder: Lowell Stadelman
Military Affiliation: Retired U.S. Army Special Forces, Delta Force
Location: Silicon Valley, CA
How you can help: Lowell is currently seeking funding, as well as for people to spread the word of FlashMonkey’s platform.
After a full military career, Lowell went back to school to study economics and then computer science. Computer science was a challenging path, and he created software to help him learn. He then took the same software that he built to help himself succeed and turned it into FlashMonkey, an advanced learning tool that combines the psychological foundations of learning and an adaptable software platform. FlashMonkey uses flashcards, but rather than just a question and answer format, users can add a variety of media including photos, videos, screenshots, drawings, and more. FlashMonkey is currently in beta, with a freemium version live and a paid, more robust version scheduled for release this summer.
Learn more about the work FlashMonkey is doing in the learning and education space by visiting their website.
Veterans in Residence Program
Each of the veteran entrepreneurs mentioned were part of the Veterans in Residence program. The program is a six-month startup incubator that provides veteran and military family member entrepreneurs with coworking space, community, a national business network, and resources to grow their business. Apply to Veterans in Residence or sign up to be notified of future application periods at https://bunkerlabs.org/veterans-in-residence.