Q&A with Jade Thornton on 4.0 Schools’ Education Innovation Fellowships

Startups & innovation are buzz words that can make people think of big tech, and might seem like something distant or far off in Silicon Valley. However, these things can be right before our eyes in the form of a simple idea.

Meet Jade Thornton, an educator at Soulsville Charter School who participated in a fellowship with 4.0 Schools that is all about helping educators facilitate ideas for how they can improve education. Their tagline on their website reads “Community-centered education innovation, rooted in equity, without limits.”

4.0 Schools has an upcoming application for their fellowship and we wanted to take a moment to both meet Jade and hear about her experience with 4.0 Schools.

Q1: Where did you grow up, what/who influenced you to get involved in education work?

I split my time between Memphis and Meridian, MS, but Memphis has always had a special place in my heart. I was influenced to get involved in education by my father who has been in education for the past 20+ years. At a very young age, my father would talk to me about the disparities and inequities in education. As a child, I wondered “why are all the ‘good’ schools in wealthy communities?” I knew early on that was not okay and I was determined to do something about it.

Q2: What is your teaching background?

I started my education career working as a Development Associate at a local charter school. While in that role, I learned about Teach for America and decided to join, because I knew that I wanted to be in the education sector long-term. I felt called to serve in the classroom. Teach for America provided the opportunity to earn my master’s degree from Christian Brothers University as well as my license to teach. I transitioned from the classroom to working in the college and career access field which is where I currently serve.

Q3: How did you learn about 4.0 Schools and what venture were you proposing?

I learned about 4.0 Schools through a Teach for America social innovation conference. I have always wanted to address one particular issue that I saw firsthand in the classroom. I was drawn to the mission and vision of 4.0 Schools, and the fact that they work with aspiring entrepreneurs at the early stage. My idea was simply one that I had written down on paper. I proposed a venture to provide college and career support to high school students that involved a dual enrollment program that would allow students to earn a community college diploma along with their high school diploma.

Q4: How do you see this venture panning out in the future?

Through 4.0 School’s fellowship, I was able to use the grant to do a “pop up” simulation that was very successful, however, I decided that it was best for me to take a break and continue perfecting my vision. I am super thankful to be able to continue the work that I am passionate about every day in partnership with a local school. The amazing thing about being a 4.0 Schools alumna is that when I am ready to continue pursuing my venture, I have access to the New Normal fellowship. The New Normal Fellowship is specifically for alum who are focusing on projects supporting students, families, and teachers as they re-enter into the Fall 2021 school year and adapt to the “new normal” that COVID-19 has created. Fellows receive up to $7k and coaching to design and execute the pilot.

Q5: What excites you about informing more Memphis educators about 4.0 Schools?

Memphis is full of amazingly talented educators. I’ve talked to so many teachers and stakeholders that have an innovative idea and just need support maturing their venture. These ideas range from a charter school, a private early childhood program, a tutoring program, an app, or an ed-tech organization. 4.0 Schools is a hidden gem that many people are unaware of. I’m excited to help bridge the gap between great ideas and a supportive community that’s willing to develop and fund the next generation of changemakers.

As a fellow, you come into a cohort with other diverse professionals who have the same goal of evolving our ventures. The experience is packed with opportunities to grow in networking, prosper in idea development via one-on-one coaching with an entrepreneur mentor, and grow overall as a confident human in a new space. Once you matriculate through the fellowship, you have access to grants and opportunities for funding, mentor-support, and an amazing forever community of alumni from all over the country. More personally, I’d love to see education’s new innovation or technology come from a city that I care so much about, and that has impacted my life greatly. 4.0 fellows have been recognized by Camelback Ventures, Echoing Green, Forbes 30 under 30, and more.

Q6: Always love asking people what ways do you enjoy Memphis the most? What are your favorite spots?

I enjoy all things food and outdoors! I love Wing Guru, Evelyn & Olive, Levee Creamery, and FAM (such a variety!). I also love going to Shelby Farms with my husband and daughter. I could literally sit outside all day so I’m super excited about spring!

The 4.0 Schools Fellowship application opens on April 3rd and closes on April 23rd. They have application coaches available to help applicants throughout the submission process as well! If you’re interested in 4.0 Schools’ Fellowship, complete this interest form: http://bit.ly/4pt0Interest