How does one person initiate change? Seventh grade Design Lab students know learning from experts is an essential component of design thinking. Who better to talk about motivation and process, share challenges and successes, then someone who is experienced with it all. It just so happens a fellow Mustang, MJS Alumna Marina Marmolejo ’13, recent Yale Master of Public Health recipient and co-founder of the nonprofit DreamKit, was the expert they needed.
Based on Harvard’s Agency By Design framework, students in Design Lab (a double-period enrichment course) look closely at a system that exists in their world. After exploring the complexities of the system, they examine, question, and find opportunity to improve the system by making it more effective, efficient, beautiful or ethical. Beyond the tasks of the project, the experience empowers a maker-mindset and develops skills to expand confidence and potential.
This trimester, the 7th graders are looking closely at the garment industry and the systems in place that get clothing made, into their closets and ultimately into our landfills. From sweatshops to poisoned water supplies, students are identifying problems and exploring sustainable solutions. Marina’s involvement in a new recycled clothing subscription box called Hand Me Up, in addition to her work with homeless youth, caught teachers Nicole Wirth and LeeAnn Ramirez’s attention and they arranged a real time chat so students could hear from Marina directly.
As the class prepared for a Facetime discussion with Marina, they discovered she had dedicated herself to improving a system she saw as failing the growing number of young people who were experiencing homelessness. During an undergraduate class on homelessness and health, Marina spent four days on the streets of Skid Row in Los Angeles. The experience opened her eyes to the layered issues inherent to homelessness and she began to look deeply at ways to proactively move individuals out of the chronic cycle the current system seemed to project. In 2018 Marina co-founded the nonprofit DreamKit and began developing the DreamKitApp.
is a web-based app that connects youth experiencing homelessness to mentorship and employment opportunities in their local communities, while also rewarding its users with "DreamKit points" that can be used as currency in their local markets to address their immediate needs and improve health outcomes.
Marina’s real-life achievements, passion and commitment to make a difference in the lives of young people experiencing homelessness highlighted the process and the opportunity in design-thinking for the Design Lab students. She spoke about the motivation behind developing the app as a sustainable solution, and how she realized her potential to help as early as 8th grade. She also expressed gratitude for her Holy Child education especially the encouragement to “Be a person with and for others.” Marina’s energy and positive attitude were contagious. Students immediately asked what they could do to help!