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Education

Q &A with Christine Goodwin of WishStars

Christine Goodwin is the founder of WishStars, a new, innovative fundraising platform.

Here, she discusses the concept with FredParent.

Fredericksburg Parent: Tell us about your background.

Christine Goodwin: I grew up on a dirt road in Spotsylvania. I wrote my first line of code (BASIC) in 1979 on an Atari 800 that I got for Christmas. I graduated from Spotsylvania High School in 1987 and went to Virginia Tech for Engineering; hated it. I quit in 1990 and finished my degree at University of Mary Washington in Liberal Studies. I started coding 30 days after graduating and started my first company eight months later. I have never had just one job.

FP: What is WishStars?

CG: WishStars is a social crowdfunding platform that connects K-12 educators/students with businesses and donors to get resources into the classroom. Current resources requested include iPad Air tablets for a robotics class, iPads and Kindles for 1st and 2nd grade literacy centers, software and headphone for independent reading, funding for robotics teams, STEM academy scholarships, and band uniforms and equipment. Our mantra is Simplify, Connect, and Transform. We believe that by connecting classrooms to companies and donors to get the resources they need, they can become the place where success is defined not just by a test score, and where students and teachers can iterate on ideas using relevant tools with help from people with experience doing this for a living.

FP: How did you come up with WishStars?

CG: It all started with a nuclear meltdown over a bling ring that my daughter wasn't going to get if I didn't fill out forms with personal data that her school had sent home as part of a fundraiser. I was angry that the marketing firm would make millions, the school would get maybe $3,000, and my daughter was still cutting and pasting with a glue stick instead of a mouse. My kids – like most kids — are big idea fairies. The tipping point came driving my daughter to school one morning. She had this big idea for making an app that would use 3D technology for projects that was really cool. I watched her walk into school to take an SOL and remembered thinking that it just seemed backwards to me that classrooms aren't designed for innovating. We have infrastructure and highly trained teachers, many of whom are incredibly innovative and creative, but what the schools don't have is access to resources like technology, expertise, mentors and other professional resources. In the startup world, it is hard to find the infrastructure and the dedicated personnel to run an incubator, and yet the schools have that baked in. When my daughter got out of the car that morning, I became determined to flip the model for classrooms.

FP: A Wishbook is the name of the fundraising "wish list" individuals can create on the website. Who can create a Wishbook?

CG: Teachers, schools and organizations that need resources for educating or for advancing innovative learning; parents and students with projects or big ideas they need help building; and companies and donors looking to connect with classrooms and support innovation.

FP: Once a Wishbook is created, how are they promoted in order receive donations?

CG: We use social media to promote Wishbooks and encourage our users to do the same. Cash donations can be submitted on web and mobile platforms. We are working to bring companies online so that we can begin matching them to Wishbooks.

FP: What are the benefits of creating a Wishbook over traditional school fundraising?

CG: Wishbooks are easy to fill out, don't require proposals and are not limited to local geography. They take local needs and put them on a global platform. They also cut out the middleman. School fundraising is filled with product companies whose products, like frozen pizza and cookie dough, provide no value-added to education. As a parent, I would much rather have Apple, Microsoft or Google supporting my children's classrooms.

FP: If I am an educator wanting to create a Wishbook for my classroom, how do I get started?

CG: Go to wishstars.com and select "Sign Up" or "Create A Wishbook" and submit your email so that we can send you an invite. Fill out the form, (it only takes about 2 minutes) and send it back. We upload it for you. We will be releasing updates soon that will allow you create your own Wishbook online.

FP: What are your future goals for WishStars?

CG: We started WishStars with a focus on crowdfunding first. Our goal with WishStars is to become the place where educators and students launch products or startups from the classroom in collaboration with the businesses with which we connect them.

Kerry Pinto is a freelance writer living in Stafford.

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