About the Program

Quality of Life INNOVATIONS (QLI) is a unique social entrepreneurship initiative that fosters a spirit of civic engagement and social innovation among high school students, while helping them prepare for college. Students identify a community issue they care about, conduct primary and secondary research to examine the issue and develop and implement feasible proposals for change. Proposals can compete for college scholarships.

Innovations

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How QLI works

Students from each participating school work either individually or in teams of up to three with support from a teacher. W!se provides a Student Handbook, Teacher’s Guide and Curriculum Toolkit, as well as webinars and workshops to help them prepare.

In April, students submit a college-level paper containing their analysis, findings, recommendations and implementation plan. The papers are judged and rated, with the top students/teams advancing to a final round, where they present their proposals in person to a panel of judges. Scholarship money is awarded to the top three students/teams; additional prizes go to the other finalists and semifinalists.

QLI COMPASS EXPLORE AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAM
IN BROOKLYN

With support from the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), W!se offers the COMPASS Explore afterschool program for students grades 9-12 who live in Brooklyn, within one-hour travel distance from James Madison High School. This program provides a safe and supportive environment where students become “agents of change,” learning college-level skills as they develop and implement their solutions to real-world issues. Student projects are eligible for scholarships and recognition.​​

The program meets Fridays 3:00-6:00pm and every other Saturday 8:00am-12:00pm at James Madison High School, 3787 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11229. To apply, click here. For further information, email info@wise-ny.org or 212.421.2700.



A Real Example

A New York City high school student walks by an elderly man waiting for a bus. It’s the middle of winter, snow is falling and he is shivering. 20 minutes later, the student walks by again. Same man, still no bus. The student thinks, “This is wrong.” At school, he enrolls in QLI. He researches the bus routing schedule and discovers that not only is the schedule inefficient but also environmentally unsound. He designs a new routing schedule, wins the QLI Competition and earns scholarship money for college. He also lobbies the transportation authorities for change.

2024 Winning Proposals

The 2024 First Place scholarship was awarded to Mika Desiderio, Ruxin Dun, and Anya Kumari from Forest Hills High School for their proposal: Waste Not Want Not: Creating Sustainable Food Waste Management in Schools. A structured composting program educates students about recycling and reduces school waste. Our research found that the school discards about 2,800 pounds of food and waste weekly, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. NYC public schools produce around 40,000 tons of recyclable waste, making them ideal for composting programs. Motivated by composting’s environmental benefits, we implemented a program at our school, including student education on the process and its impact. We collaborated with kitchen staff to measure lunchroom waste, obtained administrative approval, and worked with Zero Waste Schools to create recycling stations and educational resources. An assembly educated students, and 85.3% expressed excitement about the program. Student volunteers earned service hours, and the composting program reduced lunchroom waste by 2,700 pounds per week, demonstrating its success.

Second Place was awarded to Ethan Shimanov, Ethan Liu, and Wenwen Ma from Forest Hills High School for their proposal: Operation Green Day: Digging In To Cultivate Happiness and Health. Under the shining sun, students plant pansies, smiling despite their aching backs and knees. Connecting with nature positively affects physical and mental health. Our school has a dedicated green space, but our survey found that 49% of students didn’t know about it, and 36% believed it didn’t exist. This highlights students’ lack of awareness of green spaces. Interacting with nature improves mental health, so we organized Green Day, where students weeded, planted flowers, and cleaned the school area. We also created a volunteer manual with resources for connecting with nature outside school. As a result, volunteers learned new skills, interacted directly with nature, and helped to beautify their school in the process. A participating teacher noted that students made new social connections and fostered community. Post-survey responses showed 90.8% of students felt more connected to nature after Green Day. Over time, students found they had cultivated happiness and health alongside the flowers.

Third place was a tie between Jenna Motylev from James Madison for The Hidden Secrets Behind Energy Drinks and Aiza Tahir from Midwood High School for From Pixels to Personality: The Cognitive Impact of Technological Devices on Adolescent Behavior.

2023 Winning Proposals

The 2023 First Place $7,000 scholarship was awarded to Hamna Maqbol from the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology for her project, “Break the Cycle: Promoting Awareness about Teen Dating Abuse.” Hamna worked closely with her school’s Assistant Principal to add a unit on teen dating abuse to the health writing curriculum, presented her project at a school town hall meeting, and organized a teacher training from “Day One,” a non-profit offering services to NYC youth age 24 and under whose mission is to end dating abuse and domestic violence through community education, supportive services, legal advocacy, and leadership development. She also urged New York State Senators to sponsor Senate Bill S4420, which would establish a school-based teen dating violence prevention program, and secured more than 200 signatures from the public in support of passing the bill.

The Second Place $3,500 scholarship was awarded to Tiffany Brekher, Chloe Ou, and Ashley Zhong from Staten Island Technical High School for “Improving Recycling Rates in NYC Public Schools.” Jacklin Xie from Brooklyn Technical High School placed third for “School Sustainability: The Implications of Implementing Living Walls at Schools for the Purpose of Air Purification” and was awarded a $1,750 scholarship.

View More Past Winners

“I really loved that exhilarating feeling when my partner and I finally saw the effects of our implementation. It took us an entire year’s worth of hard work until we were able to get our idea going. When we saw just how effective our implementation was, we were thrilled that we actually contributed to our community!” Rebecca, Staten Island Technical High School


“Research supports the Quality of Life INNOVATIONS program because it provides students with an opportunity to learn important skills that will support them in college and beyond. The students learn such skills as research, writing, and the importance of being civically engaged, with my favorite (and important part) being how the students implement their proposal.” Erin Baskett, Managing Partner and CFO/CCO of Autonomous Research, a sponsor of QLI