Selection processes are often a mystery. How are awardees selected? Who does the selecting? How many are chosen? We don't want our process to be that way. So, allow us to walk you through the people, the timing, the steps, and the tools we use to determine finalists and then awardees.
But first, we want to back up and talk about how students hear about our award. They’re nominated. Principals, college counselors, debate coaches, teachers—they all nominate students. So do staff from youth programs like Upward Bound, Fab Philly, and Philadelphia Young Playwrights. Once students are nominated, we invite them to apply.
This year, 45 students were nominated and 25 decided to apply. That’s OK with us. We’re looking for students with ambition who are ready to leap on opportunities. By applying, students are already demonstrating those characteristics.
Once we have both nomination and application in hand, we move into our selection period.
Introducing...the Selection Committee
The selection committee is made up of our advisory board and two of our awardees from the previous cycle. We invite awardees to participate because they bring a valuable "insider" view, having gone through the process less than one year earlier. This year we’ll have even more awardees casting their vote, thanks to our two new youth advisory board members.
Applicant Packet Prepared and Reviewed
Each member of our selection committee receives a packet containing every application and nomination, along with any additional supporting materials students submitted.
Before we pass this packet onto our selection committee, we strip out the names of the students and the nominators to remove bias. We also require any member of the selection committee to recuse themselves if they have an affiliation with a school or program and may know the student.
Each member of the committee reviews all this information and then scores each application according to our rubric. We ask committee members to consider whether the student demonstrates the characteristics we seek, has a vision for her next steps after graduating high school, and has some sense of how we can support that vision.
Picking the Finalists, then the Awardees
Next, the committee comes together to narrow the pool to finalists. Our finalist pool is typically limited to eight students. At our meeting, we average the committee’s scores to see if it naturally determines our finalist pool. We also debate and discuss applications to assure we hear all voices and opinions.
We invite finalists to interview with selection committee members, and these same committee members make awardee recommendations to the full committee. The full committee meets once more to review and approve all awardee recommendations.
We keep all applicants updated about their status throughout the process. The happiest emails we send, of course, are to the four awardees. These emails go out in late May. Then, we’re ready to introduce our four 2019 awardees to the public by June. Stay tuned!