Philanthropists Eric and Wendy Schmidt have begun accepting applications for Rise, a global talent program for 15- to 17-year-olds who make a commitment to pursue careers and initiatives in public service. The program, a partnership with the Rhodes Trust, promises to provide winners with lifelong financial support and mentorship.

A key goal of the program is to identify and surface young people from unexpected pockets of talent around the world. “What if you could find the next Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, or Nelson Mandela?” says Wendy Schmidt, cofounder of Schmidt Futures, which is administering Rise. “What if there are dozens of these people in the world who have lacked access to opportunity and to support? With this program we’re looking at supporting people through their lifetimes in public service.”

Eric Schmidt, the former chairman and CEO of Google, says offering “support for life” is part of what distinguishes Rise from other fellowships and scholarships.

“I would assert to you that in 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, the world will have more problems, and the world is getting bigger and more complicated,” he says. “And you need a new generation of leaders who can deal with that kind of complexity. The idea was that you don’t do it as a one-shot, you do it over their careers. That’s the way in which [Rise] is different.”

Schmidt Futures will begin accepting applications for Rise today through January 29, 2021. Students can apply via Hello World, a mobile app developed in partnership with a new nonprofit chaired by Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy. “For me, the key thing is that it has a digital front end, so it should scale to the world,” Eric Schmidt says.

Students without access to the app can learn more about applying to the program via low-tech pathways on the Rise website.

All applicants to the program will have access to free online courses on leadership, personal growth, and professional development from experts around the world. The first cohort of 100 winners will be announced in July 2021. Winners will receive need-based financial support for education and internships, they’ll participate in gatherings (virtual if needed) to develop leadership skills and learn about careers in service, and they will receive career support as they enter the workforce. Winners eventually may also have the opportunity to apply for grants or compete for investment dollars from Rise and its partners. Partners include United World Colleges, Teach For All, Global Citizen Year, African Leadership Group, AMIDEAST, National Youth Council Singapore, and the Latin American Leadership Academy.

Rise is the centerpiece of a $1 billion pledge the Schmidts announced last year. Other Schmidt Futures programs include Schmidt Science Fellows, another partnership with the Rhodes Trust, that offers an interdisciplinary one-year fellowship for scientists who have completed their PhDs in natural sciences, computing, engineering, or mathematics.

“We know that if you want to get the best outcomes for the planet, you can’t just bet on the people you already know, and you can’t just bet on the people you’ve already bet on,” says Eric Braverman, CEO of Schmidt Futures. “If you want to be successful at betting on exceptional people who are going to change the world, you have to look for talent early, and you have to look for talent everywhere, and you have to bet over and over again for a long time.”

And by targeting teenagers as young as 15 years old, the organizers may capture future leaders at the height of their idealism. “You’re on the cusp of adulthood, and in a lot of instances, you’re considering what the next step in your education is going to look like. Or you might be contemplating what the next step in your sort of work or family life is going to look like,” says Cassie Crockett, head of strategy for Schmidt Futures. “We’ve tried to keep in mind how we can meet people at those specific moments in their life, and give them a type of support that could be amplified down the road.”





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