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Graduation season is well underway, with kindergartners, high schoolers, college seniors and graduate students alike donning caps and gowns to celebrate their achievement. With their diplomas, graduates also get words of wisdom from a commencement speakers and a good excuse to celebrate. -- Lloyd Young ( 31 photos total)
US Naval Academy graduates throw their hats at the conclusion of their commencement and commission ceremony, attended by President Barack Obama at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on May 24 in Annapolis, Md. (Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency)     

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How to Design a Life of Yes!: Saya Hillman at TEDxBloomington

A Boston College graduate and Chicago native and resident, Saya Hillman has cobbled together a career of hanging out in coffeehouses with passionate people, ...

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Dozens of startups have launched in the past few years claiming to fix the broken recruiting and hiring process. One of them, Readyforce, has already signed up some well-known startups with a relatively straightforward and compelling idea, and it’s opening up its beta test today.

When it comes to finding the right job applicant, CEO Alex Mooradian says that “it’s all about data.” And when Mooradian says “data,” he also means videos, which are a big part of a Readyforce profile. Unlike other sites that just ask people to record videos on their own (often resulting in stilted, awkward videos), Readyforce has actually hired interviewers to do 20-minute webcam conversations with the applicants, which can be edited down into a 3-minute highlight reel. (If you’re not happy with the interview you can do it again.) Users can also fill out something called the “infinite quiz” (in reality, Mooradian says there are more than 100 questions) which tests their interests and skills.

Employers probably won’t make hiring decisions based on Readyforce profiles alone, but they should be a provide a much better filtering mechanism than a generic resume (though yes, you can upload a resume too). As an example, VP of Client Services Anna Binder recalls one user who was not hugely impressive on paper — he was a CS major at not-particularly-prestigious school — but comes across as intelligent and articulate in the video: “Within 30 seconds, you say, ‘I want that guy.’” (You can see a real, sample profile here.)

To start out, Readyforce is targeting a specific group of applicants (college students who are looking for internships or jobs) and a specific group of employers (tech startups) who want to reach them. After all, executives at pretty much any startup will complain about how hard it is to find talent, particularly technical talent. Colleges could offer one of the main solutions to that challenge, but building a traditional college recruiting program is tough. A Silicon Valley company might never have the time or budget to travel to schools outside the Bay Area, but with Readyforce, they can find promising students at those schools and reach out to them directly.

With the beta, students nationwide can create Readyforce profiles (though for now, the video capabilities are largely limited students at UCLA, Boston College, and Stanford), and companies can request to join the program. More than 300 companies are already using Readyforce, and some of them, including Bloomspot,, and SinglePlatform, have actually made hires.

Readyforce has raised $14 million from Menlo Ventures, US Venture Partners, Founder Collective, and First Round Capital.

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The North Star Academy in Newark, New Jersey so firmly preaches the inspirational catchphrase “follow your dreams” to its students that even the teachers find it infectious. One teacher, Allison Payne, who had taught at the school for four years, found the message so compelling that she was inspired to leave education to pursue her long-held dream of being a photographer. She quit her job, attended the International Center for Photography in New York City and returned to the school as a photography student to complete this six month-long documentary project.

“North Star changes the lives of everyone who is a part it, not just the students,” Payne said. “It teaches you to be relentless in pursuit of your dreams. You start to realize that anything is possible if you are just willing to work hard enough.”

Indeed, though the school is surrounded by a bleak landscape and many of the students come from low-income homes, they are encouraged to dream big. North Star students who may have been sad statistic elsewhere, here say they plan to be doctors, lawyers, engineers and, even, president of the United States.

The first step in achieving those big dreams is attending college. This year—and every year—every single student at North Star Academy in Newark, New Jersey has been accepted into at least one four-year college. 95% go on to enroll in one of those four-year institutions. Compare that with the fact that in 2004 only 26% of graduating seniors in the entire Newark school district said they planned to attend college, and it’s clear the school is doing something right.

The school’s mission to “prepare each student to enter, succeed in, and graduate from college,” permeates everything at the school. The classrooms are named after prestigious universities like Princeton and Harvard. For field trips they visit campuses like Stanford, Georgetown and Boston College. The idea behind all of this is to make college an attainable reality, the natural next step upon graduation. That mindset is often the case for middle class students, but not for disadvantaged children for whom college is often a far-off dream.

Though the school, a public charter that is part of the Uncommon Schools network, serves 1,600 students across all grade levels from K-12, a majority of students enter in the fifth grade. When they enroll they are typically two grade levels behind in both math and reading, but they come ready to work. Students at North Star have longer school days and a longer school year than their counterparts in the public school system, and complete an average of two hours of homework a night. The work is rigorous, but the results speak for themselves. In 2011, North Star students had the highest SAT scores in the city of Newark.

“If you asked almost any student who went there what they thought of it, they would tell you that they had too much homework, but that their life had been changed,” Payne says.

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