2019 Alliance for the American Dream Finalists
Hannah Miller, Legislative Assistant Carlie Boos, Legal Aid Society of Columbus Kathi Schear, Legal Aid Society of Columbus
One in three Americans has a criminal record, making it as common as possessing a bachelor's degree, but with drastically different prospects. While college degrees open doors, criminal records make vital resources inaccessible. The United States, in fact, has intrusive public records databases that have resulted in a new civil death.
“Landlords won’t rent to you, the government won’t lend you money for college and most employers won’t hire you,” said Opportunity Port team lead Hannah Miller, a legislative assistant with the City of Columbus and the Legal Aid Society of Columbus. “People with criminal records are trapped in vicious cycles of economic and social instability. And because people of color are more likely to be arrested and convicted than white people in America, the consequences of criminal records exacerbate racial inequalities.
”Recently, these injustices have been acknowledged by policy leaders, resulting in record-sealing laws that aim to mitigate barriers faced by those with criminal records. Unfortunately, most record-sealing procedures put the onus on an individual to initiate the application process. Filing a record-sealing application is complicated and requires information and skills that many citizens do not possess. Even though sealing records results in higher wages, housing security and increased economic productivity, fewer than 7% of those eligible apply.
“We know record sealing works,” Miller said. “But record-sealing laws are not enough. People will always need help accessing their rights. How do we make it easier to access, navigate and manage so no one gets turned away?
”Opportunity Port will be an online and mobile-friendly platform to help those with criminal records easily get help to seal those records. This platform will act as a case management tool, allowing a person with a criminal record to fill out a form and find legal support. The platform will code for eligibility, and immediately promote higher application completion rates. Starting in Franklin County, Opportunity Port will increase the number of record-sealing applications submitted from 1,500 in 2019 to 15,000 by 2022.
“Opportunity Port can give everyone the second chance they deserve,” Miller said.
Desiree Polk Bland, Columbus State Community College Nick Davis, Mid-Ohio Foodbank
Each year at universities across the country, students drop out for a variety of non-academic reasons — finances, lack of time or simple uncertainty their investment will result in a good job. Meanwhile, corporations spend thousands of dollars annually on recruitment and training. What if an app could connect an employer with a future employee early in the college process? It could result in focused training and support that would pay off for both parties.
“People are underemployed, employment is being disrupted, people need to reskill and they’re trying to find ways to do that,” said Desiree Polk-Bland, PhD, executive dean of Student Affairs at Columbus State Community College. “Readyskill will connect people in need with the jobs of tomorrow.”
A mobile-designed app, Readyskill will take an innovative approach to match individuals with an educational partner, or sponsor, and future employer. This match will overcome the uncertainty gap that exists for many individuals in need of a higher paying job.
The user’s experience will start with a diagnostic to understand his or her current needs and life situation, including prior work experience, schooling, housing, transportation, family and food. Once a student’s individual needs and situation are assessed, the platform will use data analytics to suggest potential skilling “sprints” that match the individual’s interests and skills to a list of potential employers looking for candidates with similar skillsets. Predictive analytics will help potential employers evaluate candidates and sponsor their training to gain a future employee who understands the company and its needs, reducing the risk of turnover after the investment.
The team plans to launch the app in March with 10,000 Columbus State Community College and Ohio State students and scale from there.
119 Power to the Patient
Jennifer Schlegel, OSU Biomedical Engineering Alumna Anders Sondergaard, OSU Biomedical Engineering Student
Well-intentioned people who make 911 calls on behalf of someone with a chronic illness may actually be doing tremendous damage to that person and others. Unfortunately, most people don’t know what a medical emergency is and when 911 is necessary. Those unnecessary calls are financially destructive to those with chronic illnesses, weigh down the emergency medical system when others may actually be in need of medical help and cost the U.S. economy about $8.3 billion a year.
The leader for the 119 Power to the Patient project, Jen Schlegel, knows this problem firsthand. She was born with cerebral palsy, which has led to numerous health problems, some of which regularly cause her to lose consciousness.
“Once I had 15 911 calls in a three-week period. I needed one of those calls,” said Schlegel, an Ohio State biomedical engineering student who started BeEnabled, LLC, to create digital tools such as the 119 app that will help her and those in her community lead better lives. “In 2015, unnecessary 911 calls cost me 30% of my income.
“It’s not a small-scale issue. There are so many people affected by this issue. Those unnecessary 911 calls often mean they have to choose between food and medical bills.”
The monetary expenses of these calls can be damaging to the finances of insured and uninsured individuals alike. The looming danger of eviction and unemployment because of too many 911 calls can leave families fighting to maintain a stable lifestyle.
119 is a subscription-based service for a smartwatch or smartphone to help the chronically ill reduce the number of unnecessary emergency room visits. It will also help to redefine a true medical emergency for our society by giving power back to patients. 119 connects the user to bystanders to inform them about the best course of action during a medical event.
By reducing expenses and improving the response to medical events, 119 helps those with chronic illness live a more stable lifestyle and pursue better life outcomes.