There were many notable names at SXSW EDU but it was interesting to notice the number of celebrities who were promoting or lending their names to non-profit initiatives and SXSW EDU projects.

Dan Rather

Every year at SXSW EDU, Dan Rather and grandson Martin Rather announce the Rather Prize winner. The Rather Prize is awarded to a great new idea for education in Texas. This year’s winner is Kaitlyn Barton of YES Prep Southeast Secondary in Houston. Her idea, Ballot and Ride, is a program that educates students about the democratic process, hosts voter registration drives, and provides transportation to voters. Applications are opened for the next award in October 2023 with a deadline of February 2024. If you need some inspiration, here is a list of previous winners.

Hank Green

Youtube science educator Hank Green, creator of Crash Course, has partnered with Arizona State University, YouTube, and PBS to create a video series called Study Hall where you can attend online college courses for $25 or get credit for them for $400. The courses seem to have been animated by the same people that did Crash Course and the professors seem compelling, so this is a space to watch.

Kristi Yamaguchi

Olympic Gold Medalist Kristi Yamaguchi’s Always Dream Foundation was established in 1996 and has several interesting projects. Always Reading  ensures pre-school children from low‑income families have access to high‑quality books in the home environment and extensive family engagement support by providing tablets with excellent books to low income children. Footsteps to Brilliance provides language arts programs to  students in kindergarten and first grade. The program is presently only in California, but she plans to extend nationwide. 

Arik Armstead

Arik Armstead is an American football defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers. His non-profit, The Armstead Academic Project, began in 2015 as the Arik Armstead Football Camp. The Armstead Academic Project has committed $2M in direct funding for disadvantaged youth in Sacramento and the Bay Area. 

Frank Gehry

World renowned architect Frank Gehry and sister Doreen Gehry Nelson have been working on Doreen’s design-based learning method called City Building that they began many decades ago. The recently restored 1972 documentary, Kid City, about the beginnings of the program, was highlighted and one of their previous students talked about her experiences on the project.

Every bit of attention paid to increasing public awareness of the needs and challenges of education is important, and it is valuable to have these well known celebrities trying to raise attention on issues that are important to them is helpful to all of us.

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