Funding Bright Futures
A Student-Run Education Non-Profit
by Hailey O’Connor
United Nations International School
Very few high school students can say they have accomplished as much as Jay Patel. A senior at the United Nations International School in New York City, he founded Funding Bright Futures — a non-profit organization that hosts youth classes to raise money for underprivileged international students. Patel is a New Yorker, born-and-raised, but his family hails from India. While traveling there, he witnessed poverty first-hand. Saddened, but motivated, Patel founded Funding Bright Futures in 2015 to assuage the educational implications of this poverty.
Art, Cooking, Coding & Minecraft
Funding Bright Futures hosts a variety of youth classes taught by student volunteer team members; the proceeds of these classes fund scholarships for students around the world. From NYC to California, from Dubai to Mexico, Funding Bright Futures provides a dual-edged service: education and activity for participating students that, in turn, funds the scholarship of low-income students internationally. The organization facilitates education on both a local and global level, creating a system that will work to undermine the cyclic patterns of poverty — a tragedy that has a ripple effect on students for generations. The non-profit does not limit itself to “classes” in the generic school-subject sense; Patel began the organization teaching soccer classes to his younger brother and friends. As Funding Bright Futures became a hit, the classes expanded to art, cooking, coding, and even Minecraft! Tutoring in various academic subjects is also available.
While the coronavirus pandemic posed a large challenge for the prosperity of many operations, Funding Bright Futures was not one of them — the participant, team, and class number grew exponentially in these past months. Taking advantage of the turning tides, Patel recognized the freedom virtual classes could give in regards to educational breadth and participation. Patel shifted his entire non-profit from the in-person security of coffee shops and libraries to Google meets and virtual communication. In lockdown, parents still wanted their children to be productive and keep busy; thus, virtual classes and supplemental learning became the go-to for quarantine activity. As remote learning came to the forefront of productivity, classes with Funding Bright Futures were in full-swing and filling up fast. In fact, many parents wanted to join in on the fun also! The organization’s art and cooking classes are a bestseller among adults.
This sudden boost in popularity allowed Funding Bright Futures to offer their help more than ever before. Patel has connections with four schools — three in India, one in Mexico — to support their low-income students and provide them with the money necessary to complete their education. Funding Bright Futures has sponsored 106 scholarships, a number that continues to grow. Beyond the educational patronage, Funding Bright Futures has several thousand dollars set aside to later donate to international students who the pandemic rendered food insecure. Patel passionately explained that “Education is not just attending school; it is ensuring the well-being —physically and mentally — of students so that they can focus and perform.”
Funding Bright Futures has its sights set on achieving one ultimate goal: bring a school from each nation into its network. Funding Bright Futures is not an NYC-based organization — it’s a community of enthusiastic students. For more information about Jay Patel’s non-profit, go to fundingbrightfutures.org.