Sarah Baird launches non-profit aimed at helping students pay for college
Sarah Baird ’09 appreciates the value of a college education, which is why she recently founded Takeashine, a non-profit corporation based in New Orleans that will enable low-income students to crowdfund money for college.
“Takeashine just launched a pilot class of five high school seniors from New Orleans, who will raise approximately $5,000 each between Sept. 15 and Dec. 15 to cover their college funding gap,” Baird explains. “On February 1, 2012, after studying the outcomes and best practices from the fall 2011 pilot, Takeashine will officially open up the platform to all students in the city of New Orleans.”
Crowdfunding — the collective cooperation of a network of people who pool their money and other resources together to support efforts initiated by the organization — will allow people to donate money towards the students in Takeashine’s pilot class.
The idea to found a corporation like Takeashine presented itself to Baird while she was working first as deputy chief-of-staff to Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo and then as press secretary and new media director for Governor Steve Beshear.
“When meeting with constituents around the state, an issue faced by families time and time again — especially those from underserved communities — was a deep and profound concern about paying for higher education,” Baird says. “When I moved to New Orleans to work as communications director for the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, the notion of inequality around access to higher education due to financial constraints once again resonated with me.”
Baird was troubled by the idea that America’s youth was only being given preparation for college in the classroom — if that.
“While there are numerous high-level organizations working to prepare low-income students academically for college, there are no organizations to help them bridge that gap financially,” she says. “Pairing that with a real commitment to social change and entrepreneurship — and the belief that technology is a profound vehicle — led to the creation of Takeashine.”
Just as students working with Takeashine are aided in the college process, the corporation itself has found guidance from the Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans New Venture Accelerator, a selective program aiming to accelerate the impact and financial sustainability of a social venture in its early stages.
“Through this 10-month incubator with SENO (currently in month three), I have been provided with profound support from experts, mentors and consultants who have worked with me to not only refine the vision of Takeashine, but implement best practices that are manageable today and scalable into the future,” Baird says.
With a business plan of growing to three new cities per year nationwide from 2012 to 2015, bringing the total number of cities of operation to ten over the next three years, Baird already realizes the importance of being surrounded by a good support system.
“There is a tendency to get so caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day tasks, meetings and high-level strategy that you don’t have time to reflect on the profound nature of the work at hand,” she says. “It’s important to keep people around you who share your vision and passion — whether they are employees, mentors or co-founders — to ensure that there’s at least a point in each day where you can stop to reflect on the importance of your cause.”
Baird hopes that Takeashine will give high school students the opportunity to have a college experience as meaningful as her own experience at Centre, where she learned the value of higher education.
“I think I’m a prime example of the ‘personal education, extraordinary success’ motto embraced by Centre,” Baird says. “There’s no denying that such a deep level of commitment to my personal needs and unconventional path while I was a student at Centre have led to my success today, and my desire to help others reach their college goals.”