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Our Story

The seeds of the LightU Project began under the fluorescent lights of Bayne’s middle school at a meeting with Bayne’s parents and her special ed teacher.

“Your daughter has a 50% chance of graduating from high school,” the teacher announced. It was the spring of Bayne’s 8th grade year.

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Bayne had been born without sight in one eye, then was diagnosed with severe dyslexia at age 7. She’d been through intensive visual therapy that resulted in terrible headaches and had worked closely with a special education teacher for years.

By the end of middle school, Bayne was struggling so much that she didn’t want any of her friends to know she was taking remedial reading or just how low her grades were. “Basically, I was hiding,” she said. “From everyone I knew, including myself.”

Now, sitting in that tiny classroom with her special ed teacher, the announcement of Bayne’s 50% chance of graduating hanging in the air, Steve and Linda resolved to do whatever they could to turn things around.

And that’s when a stroke of fortune hit. As soon as Bayne entered 9th grade, she discovered her high school’s criminal justice program. Something about the teachers’ passion for their field left her exhilarated.

“I have to join this program!” she announced to her parents that night.

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They saw a spark in Bayne that they’d never seen before, and within a few weeks, Bayne was talking about becoming a defense attorney. It was extraordinary to watch Bayne come alive.

Then one day in the middle of her sophomore year, Steve heard about Elizabeth’s mentoring program, The Dream School Project, and immediately signed her up. Bayne was intrigued by the idea that she could take her passion in the Criminal Justice program and turn it into something even bigger. So every week, she showed up to the online video class, scribbling notes as Elizabeth taught her to come up with a new project: something that solved a problem in her community and truly excited her.

That’s when the problem hit Bayne: so many of her friends hadn’t been able to join the Criminal Justice Academy at her school because of the fee. And it was only through luck that she’d found out about it and her parents had been able to afford it. But luck had created the first positive experience she’d ever had in school. And now she’d gone from potential high school dropout to future attorney!

How unfair that her friends were missing out on this life-changing program just because luck hadn’t been on their side. Was luck really the only the deciding factor that could change a kid’s life? No way. So, she decided to create a nonprofit to raise money for students to join the program.

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Almost from the beginning, her project seemed to take on a life of its own. Within a few months, she was pitching her idea to a room full of 540 Wharton students at UPenn. She ended up being chosen in a highly selective process as he only teenager out of 72 companies that the Wharton students chose to work with.

As she worked with two different teams at Wharton on marketing and research, Bayne began to refine her vision for her organization. Slowly, she began to see that the Criminal Justice program had awakened a passion and purpose that she’d never experienced before. And she realized that she wanted to help students experience the same thing, no matter what area of interest they wanted to explore.

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By the end of Bayne’s senior year of high school, she not only graduated with her class, but she was also nominated for the prestigious Pathfinder award, one of the largest and most comprehensive high school scholarship programs in Florida that recognizes the state’s most outstanding students. By the time the graduation ceremony was over that night, Bayne had received a total of 8 awards and scholarships. And all of this was because of Elizabeth’s curriculum that inspired Bayne to take her idea to solve a problem within her community and run with it.

That’s when Bayne had the idea to partner with Elizabeth. After all, Elizabeth had been talking about how she wanted to bring her mentoring program to the public schools so she could reach many more students. How much more powerful it would be for one of Elizabeth’s students to go out and help Elizabeth spread the message of what mentoring could do to awaken students’ excitement at their gifts.

Today, Bayne and Elizabeth have officially partnered together to bring The LightU Project’s curriculum to at risk students in the public schools.

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The vision of The LightU Project is not only to help students prepare for college but also to help them thrive in high school all the way through college — and far beyond. They believe that this is the most powerful way to help students prepare to thrive in this innovation economy.  Their goal is to reach millions of students across the nation and ultimately around the world.