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.


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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.


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, contact Juliet Tarantino at jtarantino@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.

Winning Proposals

QLI serves as a laboratory of innovation and civic engagement for the next generation of social entrepreneurs. One award-winning proposal, by Edward Lin, Eric Wong and John Dalbert Zamfirescu-Pereira created a program to provide students from poor inner-city neighborhoods better access to SAT prep classes.

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

“Autonomous 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