The Youth Researchers Challenge

Designed by you. Led by you. Supported by GripTape.

As a young person, you may know best how to improve learning and schools. You experience it everyday — but you rarely have the opportunity to make it better. Those decisions have always been made by adults.

We are changing this.

We invite you — the actual students — to help shape the future of learning and schools. This year, we will sponsor eight teenagers to become cutting-edge researchers in the field of education.

This opportunity is led by GripTape and JFF’s Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative.

Modeled on GripTape’s signature approach to empower youth to drive their own learning, we are offering eight New England-based, 15–19-year-olds the chance to collaborate with education researchers to deeply investigate an education topic you want to impact. You are invited to submit plans for a research project that investigates something related to any of the following four approaches:
  • Learning is Personalized: Students engage in different ways and places and benefit from learning that starts from where the youth is, addressing their needs and interests.
  • Learning is Competency-Based: Students move ahead in school and learning when they have shown mastery of content, not when they’ve reached a particular birthday or endured a certain number of hours in a classroom.
  • Learning Happens Anytime, Anywhere: Learning takes place beyond the traditional school day, and even the school year. The school’s walls are permeable — learning is not restricted to a single space or time.
  • Students Take Ownership Over Their Learning: Student-centered learning engages young people in their own success — and incorporates their interests and skills into the learning process. Students own their learning and have opportunities to support each other.
Through this opportunity, you’ll be a youth researcher working alongside other young people and adult researchers to design your topic of investigation and learn fundamental research principles and practices. You will have the support of a GripTape “Champion” — someone who encourages and believes in you every step of the way. You’ll receive a payment for your efforts as well as a research budget to pursue your topic, and you’ll take part in two conferences with leading researchers, policy-makers, and others who want to improve learning practices across this country.


  • Applications are due by September 21, 2018.
  • Finalists give a virtual, 10-minute pitch session between September 24–26, 2018.
  • Selection takes place by September 28, 2018.
  • Research projects are carried out between October 2018 and May 2019.

If selected, you will receive:

      • $500 to support you personally during your research investigation.
      • Up to $1000 for research expenses.
      • A GripTape Champion to check in with you virtually every two weeks throughout your research project.
      • A research partner who will be available to discuss your research design, data, and findings.
      • Two all-expenses-paid trips for the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative Convenings on October 10–12, 2018 in Rhode Island and May, 2019 (exact dates and location to be determined) where you will participate as full partners and presenters to improve learning for all young people.

A few more things:

      • You do not need prior experience or knowledge of research fundamentals.
      • You must be between 15–19 years old and live or go to school in New England (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT).
      • You must be able to attend the October 2018 and May 2019 conferences (GripTape will make all travel, lodging, and meal arrangements, pay for all expenses, and provide chaperones for both sessions.).
      • You can apply in any format you choose — written, PowerPoint, video, audio, illustration, or something else — as long as you answer the application questions in detail.

To complete your application:

      • Describe a learning experience you’ve had that led you to want to change how youth are taught.
      • Tell us which of the four approaches you’re interested in and why you are passionate about pursuing this research.
      • Explain how this project relates to your success, now or in the future.
      • Share your starting goals and plans for your project.
      • Apply by September 21, 2018.

Generous funding provided by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.