DiscoverU

Experience Matters

Houston, TX   |  www.discoverus.org

Mission

We envision the day when every young person has access to high-quality, out-of-school learning experiences that give them the skills, confidence, and mindset to advocate for their own success. To achieve its Vision, DiscoverU helps youth successfully apply and gain admission to and complete high-quality, out-of-school learning experiences and advocates for the inclusion of experiential learning in the policies and practices of educational systems.

Ruling year info

2008

Executive Director

Mr. George William Vander Veer

Main address

7676 Hillmont Suite 235

Houston, TX 77040 USA

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Formerly known as

Next Step Fund

Lee Next Step Fund

EIN

26-2053733

NTEE code info

Youth Development Programs (O50)

Secondary/High School (B25)

Youth Development Programs (O50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Analysts are in general agreement that young people must be more highly educated than ever if they are to participate in the new “knowledge economy.” Alarmingly, the most recent data tracking Texas students through high school, college admissions, and program completion show a success rate just above 20%. And for students from economically disadvantaged families, the number is closer to 10%. The reasons for low post-secondary success are several. Some students are not academically prepared for learning after high school, whether it’s in a work-related program or academic degree. Some simply can’t afford the cost. For a significant number, the lack of “soft skills” appears to get in their way. These are personal capacities like self-confidence, effective communications, persistence, and self-management. Some students have a “mindset” that limits their potential simply because they don’t see themselves as successful learners or “college material.”

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Fantastic Learning Opportunities

DiscoverU is a mission-driven organization that equalizes access to high-quality, out-of-school learning experiences for all youth.  Access to Detailed Information:  Our student-friendly mobile portal allows students and their supportive adults to search for opportunities, gain exposure to application best practices, & track their progress in the FLO process.Personalized Guidance & Application Support: One-on-one mentorship throughout the application and participation process teaches social-emotional skills & builds rapport with a supportive adult.Financial & Logistical Services: In addition to our direct financial aid, negotiated scholarships, & our easy fundraising tools, DiscoverU eliminates barriers to participation through advocacy and action.Personal Reflection & Planning: Students work with supportive adults to set and track short & long term goals throughout the FLO process, culminating in vision-building and career exploration through guided post-FLO reflection.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people
Adolescents

Where we work

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Many out-of-school organizations address academic preparedness. DiscoverU tackles the other major dimension of this challenge: students’ mindsets, practical experiences, and social-emotional skill-sets. With our singular focus, DiscoverU connects students to the kinds of exceptional out-of-school programs that provide the foundation for success in high school, college, career, and life. Our name for these experiences is Fantastic Learning Opportunities.

By the year 2023, DiscoverU will be recognized across Greater Houston and beyond as the preeminent organization
promoting and connecting youth with high-quality, out-of-school learning experiences.

By the year 2023, at least 2023 students will complete FLOs annually with the support of DiscoverU.

By the year 2023, DiscoverU will have success influencing the policies and practices of educational and social systems
regarding the inclusion of high-quality, out-of-school learning experiences in the education of all youth.

STRATEGIES: 2018—2023
Goal 1. Expand and Refine Support Provided by the Governance and Advisory Boards
Increase membership in Board of Directors to 13; transition member responsibilities to fiduciary and policy; plan for board leadership succession; set goals for the Advisory Board

Goal 2. Achieve Financial Stability and Sustainability
Analyze revenue mixture; investigate establishment of a reserve fund; plan for sustainability; create and implement campaign to increase individual and philanthropic donations

Goal 3. Improve Visibility and Clarity of Messaging
Improve branding the include identifying language and continuity of visual designs; create press kit; upgrade website

Goal 4. Enlarge and Adapt Staff in Response to Growth
Hire for critical staff positions after analysis of need; adjust staff duties for optimal specialization vs cross-training; create professional development opportunities as part of staff benefits program

Goal 5. Enhance Technological Support for Students and Stakeholders
Commit significant new resources to technology support; create on-line handbooks and donor support; create mobile apps; add technology support to staff

Goal 6. Identify Efficiencies in Program Functioning for Students and FLO Providers
Map the “production model” for supporting students and engaging FLO providers; explore changes in student and provider systems to achieve efficiencies; inform staff hiring and organizational evaluation

Goal 7. Create Measures of Impact for Evaluation and Accountability
After review of existing data collection and use, build comprehensive evaluation system with useful indicators; develop reporting templates; engage an evaluation specialist

Goal 8. Promote the FLO Concept with Institutions and Other Non-Profits
Understand current influence of DiscoverU on school and agency partners; design and implement a campaign for
increasing awareness of the power of FLO’s and the importance of institutional commitment to providing them

DiscoverU is a mission-driven organization that equalizes access to high-quality, out-of-school learning experiences for all youth.
Through experiential learning, DiscoverU assists youth in developing a vision for their future and gaining the social-emotional skills necessary to succeed in college, career, and in life.

In addition to supporting youth directly, DiscoverU builds robust support systems that involve families, schools, communities, and learning-opportunity partners.

DiscoverU creates value in five distinctive ways.
1. A Breakthrough Model
DiscoverU delivers a system for identifying and vetting high-quality, out-of-school learning experiences, matching youth with the most promising opportunities, and supporting youth step-by-step: from initial awareness, through program access, to successful completion.

2. Financial Solutions
DiscoverU manages the costs associated with high-quality, out-of-school learning experiences using creative financial solutions. These include fostering the ability of youth to raise and save funds and to pay a portion of an opportunity’s participation costs directly, soliciting grants and donations to support DiscoverU, and negotiating scholarships with providers.

3. Relationship Management
DiscoverU builds strong and trustful relationships with youth, their families, schools, communities, and the partner organizations that provide learning opportunities.

4. Pioneering Information Systems
DiscoverU supports youth, their families, and school partners with technologies offering ease of access and essential information.

5. Quality People
DiscoverU attracts, develops, and retains a talented and committed staff.

In 2017 we supported 458 students through FLO completion in 8 schools. Last summer we supported 766 in 36 schools. This year we are serving 1,000 in over 70 schools.

In 2018-19, our 1,283 students submitted 1,805 Applications; 1,026 students earned 1,305 Acceptances; and ultimately 706 students lived 814 FLO Experiences. Those students earned more than $540,000 in financial aid and scholarships to participate in FLOs.

For students from 2011-2017:
98% of FLOsters rated their FLO Experience as "EXCELLENT" or "VERY GOOD"
98% of FLOsters experienced academic and/or social development as a result of their FLO.
86% of FLOsters consider their FLO experience to be a significant positive impact on their future success.

99% of FLOsters graduated from high school.
75% of FLOsters matriculated to a 2- or 4- year university.
45% of FLOsters who matriculated to college graduated within 6 years. (national average: 21%)
67% of FLOsters who matriculated to college are still working toward their degrees.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    Our students complete a Pre- and Post-FLO Survey to gauge their changing attitudes, program impact, and effectiveness of DiscoverU support.

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person),

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    One Example: We have increased the number of programs featuring skilled trade education in response to student requests.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    The people we serve, Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners,

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We act on the feedback we receive,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback,

Financials

DiscoverU
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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lock

Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

DiscoverU

Board of directors
as of 11/17/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr Ian Stewart

ExxonMobil

Term: 2019 - 2022

Ritesh Kapadia

Virtuas, Inc.

Ian Stewart

ExxonMobil

Lyn Greenwood

ExxonMobil

Kimberlin Sturgis

Canji Consulting, LLC

Eric Bartz

Big Brother Properties, LLC

Jamie Bailey

Baylor College of Medicine

Charles Munsell IV

PwC

Alison Porter

Apex Leadership Co.

Andrew Kapral

University of Houston College of Education

April Greenhouse Weaver

Metropolitan Transit Authority

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 11/17/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Multi-Racial/Multi-Ethnic (2+ races/ethnicities)
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability

No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 03/26/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.